VTG Rail UK welcomes first customer to adopt ground-breaking iWagon technology

Heidelberg Materials win the race to become first company in the world to adopt iWagon

Their decision was a “no-brainer” following a significant incident in October 2022 in which five tank wagons derailed from the track at Petteril Bridge, Carlisle.

The iWagon is poised to transform rail freight with its advanced safety features and operational efficiencies, which are also expected to significantly increase wagon availability and reliability.

Heidelberg Materials’ decision to invest in the iWagon technology was strongly influenced by the derailment at Petteril Bridge. Clare Soper, Operations Director UK Supply Chain Cement Distribution for Heidelberg Materials, said: “I am very excited to have placed this order for iWagon and to be the first in the world to do so on behalf of Heidelberg Materials.”

She cited the October 2022 ‘Petteril Bridge’ incident in being a driving factor in the company wishing to invest in the iWagon. The derailment involved five tank wagons on a freight train carrying cement powder, on behalf of Heidelberg Materials, from Clitheroe in Lancashire to Mossend near Glasgow. The accident caused significant damage to the wagons, the track, and the bridge over the River Petteril, leading to prolonged closures of routes from Carlisle to Newcastle and Settle.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) determined that the derailment occurred because one set of wheels on the ninth wagon in the train stopped rotating during the journey. These wheels had stopped rotating up to 55 miles (88km) before the derailment and continued to slide along the railhead leading to damage to the profile of the wheel treads. This meant that the wheels were unable to safely negotiate a set of points just before Petteril Bridge Junction, damaging them and causing the ninth wagon to become derailed. Five of the wagons derailed due to the consequent track damage and two of them fell off the side of the bridge where the railway crosses the River Petteril. The ninth tank wagon was ruptured and landed upside down in the river, although very little of the cement powder was spilled.

The RAIB determined the initial wheel slide was probably the result of a normal brake application made in low adhesion conditions that were not abnormal for the route at the time of year. The wheel slide continued because the adhesion between the wheels and the rails was then insufficient for the wheels to restart rotation.

The non-rotating wheels were not identified by the signallers on the route, nor by the train driver or any engineered system, meaning that the train was not stopped before it reached Petteril Bridge Junction.

Following the incident, the RAIB recommended that the rail industry undertake work to better understand the specific risks posed to freight trains in low adhesion conditions.

Marc Hurn, Sales and Marketing Director at VTG Rail UK, said: “The iWagon technology provides real-time monitoring and advanced safety features designed to prevent incidents similar to the one that occurred at Petteril Bridge. With cutting-edge technology developed by dedicated engineers and innovators from VTG and Knorr-Bremse collaborating, the iWagon integrates state-of-the-art sensors, data analytics, and automation to elevate safety, performance, and reliability standards of rail freight wagons. It exemplifies a commitment to innovation and safety in the rail industry.

“The adoption of iWagon by Heidelberg Materials marks a significant milestone in rail freight safety and efficiency, setting a new standard for the industry. As the first company to implement iWagon technology, Heidelberg Materials leads the way in adopting state-of-the-art solutions to enhance rail safety and operational performance. In addition, because of the benefits iWagon technology brings it allows for cost effectiveness for customers in the commercial environment. VTG Rail UK looks forward to seeing the positive impacts of iWagon on the rail freight industry.”

Clare Soper, Operations Director UK Supply Chain Cement Distribution for Heidelberg Materials, added: “The Petteril Bridge incident brought about some real questions about safety and how we do things differently and then conversations with VTG led us to understand that the iWagon product was available. We’ve done an awful lot of research about it, had a lot of conversations and it seemed like a real no-brainer for us to put iWagon technology in place to stop incidents such as Petteril Bridge ever happening again.”

Watch the interview with Marc Hurn (Sales and Marketing Director, VTG Rail UK) and Clare Soper (Operations Director UK Supply Chain, Heidelberg Materials) here.

Learn more about the iWagon here.

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