In the right place, at the right time

Railcare has been a contractor to Trafikverket for snow removal on the railway during the winter season for several years. In the snow removal contract, which is activated from mid-November to mid-March, Railcare provides efficient and safe snow removal at strategically selected locations along the railway network.

But what does the snow removal contract really mean and how does Railcare work together with Trafikverket to try to minimise the impact of the weather, and especially extreme weather, on the railway?

The machines

The snow removal contract means that Railcare has a number of machines and personnel strategically deployed in Sweden for the winter season, to be positioned in the shortest possible time where it is needed most.

Initially, there are the two snow melting machines SR-700 in Stockholm and Hallsberg, SR-300 in Stockholm, and the two SR-100 in Gävle and Gothenburg. The SR-200 snow ploughs are based in Östersund and Långsele.

– The placement of the snow melting machines is selected to be able to quickly access railway yards and stations. This machine fits extra well there, as it sweeps up and melts the snow in large tanks. This means that the machine removes the problem instead of moving it to the side or somewhere else, says Adam Sundin, Operations Manager at Railcare, he continues:

– The snow ploughs are positioned where the regular traffic needs extra help. The advantage of our flexible snow ploughs is that it is possible to control the plough blade itself; for example, if the snow is to be steered to the right, left, both, or take the snow forward.

All machines have around 40 employees, primarily machine operators and train drivers, who are involved in carrying out the work.

The forecasts

For Trafikverket to be able to secure resources with Railcare’s machines and employees at the right time, they hold daily forecast meetings together with SMHI to predict large amounts of snow. The forecasts and previous experiences are incredibly important for having time to transport both machines and personnel to the current location, even before the first snow begins to fall.

– Before the latest storm warning in Östersund, we had booked machines and personnel in a double crew. Since the outcome was exactly as the forecast predicted, we already had good resources in place to handle the snow removal together very well, says Alexander Magnusson, Deputy Project Manager for maintenance of the Mittbanan / Ådalsbanan at Trafikverket.

The decisions

Over the years, Trafikverket has changed its way of working. Previously they could wait a little too long to call in resources, however, the approach is now better safe than sorry.

– Forecasts can change quickly. A storm can come faster or will not be as extensive as previously thought, but we never take any chances. It is better to take a cost for preventive purposes than have huge problems on the railway network, says Alexander.

Railcare has also noticed Traikverket has changed its way of working.

– We collaborate well with Trafikverket. They are proactive in their decisions, it works smoothly to send the machines and we are always very well received, Adam concludes.

Railcare started using its vacuum technology for snow and ice removal on the railway as early as 2004, a method that causes minimal damage to the railway. Since then, the machines have been developed further. The snow melting machine was developed in 2011 together with Trafikverket.