The 'hot water train': unique project for Belgian railway operator Infrabel

Railway manager Infrabel recently presented its hot water train. This new train should make it possible to tackle weeds around the tracks in a more environmentally friendly way.

Sustainable solution for the environment

The new train will tackle weeds around the tracks with (just barely) boiling water instead of pesticides. It is 180 metres long and consists of two locomotives with five wagons. Three of these are well-insulated tanks, each containing 50,000 litres of water heated to 90° Celsius. And that red-hot water is sprayed on the tracks to control weeds.

Infrabel found the inspiration for its hot water train in Switzerland but developed its own technology. Altrad was contracted to provide the insulation for the tanks. Our experts applied several layers of Pyrogel (total of +- 360M²) after which a shiny outer shell of aluminium was placed around it.

Gianni Alessandro, project manager at Altrad: "This was a special job for our 5-member team. Not only was it a precision job because of the different insulation layers that had to be carefully applied, but also the fixing of the aluminium formwork was a challenge. The speed of the train played an important role because with speeds of 100km/hour, we couldn't afford any mistakes."

Why steam instead of pesticides?

Weeds growing between the tracks pose a safety problem. The weeds cause the gravel surface to lose some of its shock-absorbing qualities, lose stability and prevent rainwater from draining away properly.

In Belgium and in other countries, herbicides are still needed to weed the tracks. Infrabel obtains derogations to the pesticide ban from regional government departments for this purpose. However, the railway operator says it wants to be able to do without herbicides as soon as possible.

The intention is to eventually control weeds on the 8,000 kilometres of tracks in this way.

Customer : Keramab for SNCB

Team Altrad : Carl Renard Wallonie

Project manager : Alessandro Gianni

Site manager: Loi Massimo

Safety: Michael Jallet

Engineering: Alessandro Gianni

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