This is a challenging time for the rail industry. More passengers, increased service frequencies, heavier axle loads, and higher speeds are all putting strain on rail networks. At the same time, many rail infrastructure companies are under pressure to reduce budgets and environmental impact. The question is: How can you protect and maintain track performance to the same or higher standards than before, with fewer people and resources?

The answer is advanced friction management from RS Clare. Combining high-performance biodegradable products with targeted trackside dispenser systems and big data collection, RS Clare helps rail infrastructure companies protect tracks and assets with less product and fewer ‘boots on ballast’.

The role of friction management

When it comes to track maintenance, the golden rule of achieving more with less is to stop wear before it requires costly repair. This is what friction management is all about. It is widely accepted that critical track wear occurs at the rail-wheel interface (WRI) on the gauge face of curved rails and the rail crown. Friction management, therefore, uses specially designed greases and liquid products to reduce wear at these two points.

Gauge face lubrication is well understood, and it has been long-established practice to apply a specially developed grease to the gauge face of curved rails to protect them from wheel flange wear. In comparison, top of rail (TOR) friction control is still in development, but it is growing as understanding increases.

In TOR friction control, an advanced liquid product is applied to the rail crown to maintain the ideal co-efficient of friction (around 0.35-0.45) in all conditions. This allows for the stick-slip behaviour you see when a wheel tries to navigate a curve, helping the train ‘steer’ through the curve and reducing flange contact and wear.

As one of the world’s largest friction management suppliers, RS Clare offers advanced high-performance products for both these areas. Its EcoCurve range of lubricants, for example, has been proven over many years to reduce wear on curved rails, all year-round. In the field of TOR friction control, ClareShield TOR-WS and ClareShield TOR-TSX minimise noise, wear and lateral forces, while offering unrivalled carry down (proven up to 4 miles/6.4 kilometres). With the correct use of these products, rail infrastructure companies can minimise wear and suppress or eradicate noise, such as rail squeal, before it develops into a larger and more costly maintenance task.

Reducing product consumption at the WRI

Obviously, to effectively reduce wear and lower maintenance costs, the performance of these products is key. EcoCurve, ClareShield TOR-WS and ClareShield TOR-TSX are leading the field, with numerous high-performance features. These include anti-wear, excellent adhesion and water wash-off resistance, as well as extreme pressure properties. This ensures the products stay in place for longer, extending reapplication intervals and reducing the number of times maintenance staff need to visit the track.

However, to truly achieve more with less, rail infrastructure companies should also aim to reduce product consumption while maintaining the same level of protection and performance longevity. This is why RC Clare recommends using its gauge face friction management products with its ClareShield TrackSys trackside dispenser system.

At the heart of the ClareShield TrackSys system is high-performance pump that delivers product right into the contact point on the gauge face of a curved rail, with very little splash back. This means that less product is needed to ensure the same amount of protection and fewer maintenance visits are required to refill the system. The net result is lower costs, in terms of both product usage and manhours.

Cut noise and wear with digitalisation

As any rail operator will tell you, rail noise is a nuisance – for passengers, local residents and the operator themselves. But it is also an important indicator that mechanical damage is developing on the track. This makes rail noise an opportunity that rail infrastructure companies can use to their advantage.

The theory is simple – if you can identify noise early, you can use friction management solutions to address the root cause of the noise before it develops into costly damage, significantly lowering long-term maintenance costs.

This is why RS Clare developed a Noise & Vibration (N&V) monitoring service for its rail infrastructure customers that combines digitalisation, large-scale data collection and advanced data analysis to take friction management to another level.

Through the service, RS Clare provides continuous real time remote and automated monitoring for different types of noise and vibration, such as curve squeal and flanging, across the rail network. It then builds track-specific data models that it can use to identify any potential issues, including emerging corrugation and other track faults, as soon as they occur.

Due to its sensitivity, the system can identify noise extremely early. It can even tell whether the issue is on the gauge face or TOR by assessing the decibels and noise frequencies. This enables the rail infrastructure company to build a detailed data map of its track network, including any noise hotspots, that it can use to make better-informed decisions about future and ongoing maintenance.

It can also work with RS Clare to establish an effective mitigation setup to address potential issues before they become a problem – essentially turning large-scale maintenance repairs into small-scale fixes by tackling them early.

High performance that doesn’t cost the earth

While doing more with less is top of mind for many rail infrastructure operators, the need for better environmental performance remains a key issue. Passengers and regulators alike are demanding greater environmental responsibility from their transport systems – and rail is no exception. This places a simple requirement on all friction management products: They must be biodegradable.

RS Clare is a market leader in high-performance environmentally friendly track lubricants, including switchplate and fishplate lubricants, as well as curved rail lubricants and TOR friction control materials. The company has been an industry leader in developing biodegradable products in recent years and provides a high-performance EU EcoLabel product in almost every category.

ClareShield TOR-TSX and the EcoCurve range are EU EcoLabel certified, while ClareShield TOR-WS is biodegradable. This means they are all non-toxic for maintenance staff and biodegrade naturally into the environment. As a result, you can choose an advanced friction management product from RS Clare without compromising on environmental performance – doing more with less environmental impact.

All this makes RS Clare an increasingly attractive full-service friction management supplier for rail operators and infrastructure companies across the globe looking to do more with less. To find out more, get in touch via the contact information below.


Tel: 0151 709 2902