In May 1997 the world's biggest iron ore exporter was sold by the Brazilian government. CVRD operates two heavy haul railways which were already efficient, and are now striving to reduce unit costs even further

J Giovanni A Albarelli, Railway Operation Engineer, Carajás Railway

COMPANHIA VALE do Rio Doce was a government owned company until it was sold in May 1997 as part of Brazil's privatisation programme. CVRD is responsible for two heavy haul railways which together handle 140 million tonnes of iron ore and other commodities each year.

The Vitória a Minas Railway (EFVM) and the Carajás Railway (EFC) are both at the forefront of technical and operational efficiency, with the EFVM carrying 101 million tonnes in 1995. Both railways are almost 900 km long, and both carry general freight and passengers in addition to the bulk flows of iron ore and other minerals for which they were originally constructed.

Unlike the 1000mm gauge EFVM, EFC is a modern railway that was opened in March 1985. The 892 km single track 1600mm gauge main line with 44 crossing stations has seen major growth of traffic during the past five years. While this is partly due to an increase in iron ore from 32·4 million tonnes in 1992 to 41·3 million in 1996, a total quality management programme has improved operational performance and increased customer focus with the result that general freight and passengers have doubled over the same period.

EFC is part of CVRD's North System which includes the mine at Carajás, the railway, and the purpose-built port of Ponta da Madeira near the city of São Luís which can load ships carrying 365000 tonnes of iron ore. CVRD's South System likewise includes mines feeding the EFVM and the port of Vitória as well as the railway.

Today, the EFC rolling stock fleet comprises 3066 ore wagons, 688 wagons of other types and 35 passenger cars. There are 85 locomotives imported from the USA varying from 3000 to 4000hp; of these, 52 were built by General Electric and the remainder by General Motors.

Depending on demand, these locomotives haul as many as seven loaded ore trains a day from mine to port with a corresponding flow of empty wagons. General freight typically requires two pairs of trains daily, and a passenger train makes three round trips a week between São Luís and Parauapebas.

Feeding into the EFC at Açailãndia is a 105 km line to Imperatriz. This was completed by the Brazilian government in April 1989 as the first stage of the ambitious Ferrovia Norte - Sul, which was to have been extended a further 1465 km to Anapolis near Brasilia. However, the rest of the project was subsequently cancelled.

Today CVRD's North System is responsible for maintaining the line, operating freight and passenger trains, and handling revenue from freight transported on Ferrovia Norte - Sul. An agreement between the government and CVRD includes a percentage of this income to be transferred annually.

20 000 tonne trains

EFC's standard train uses three locomotives to haul 204 wagons carrying 20604 tonnes of iron ore, all within an axleload limited to 30·5 tonnes. Maximum gradient faced by loaded ore trains is 0·4%, and 1·0% for empty trains returning to the mine. Average cycle time for ore trains is 56 hours including the time required to load and discharge the wagons.

When the line was built, it was expected to carry around 35 million tonnes of ore a year. As Fig 1 shows, there has been a substantial increase in recent years, with ore tonnage climbing to a peak of 44·7 million in 1995 before dropping back slightly in 1996.

Transport of general freight, while modest compared to the amount of ore handled, has doubled in the the last four years. This is mainly the result of improvements in grain export handling through the port of Ponta da Madeira, which has facilitated agricultural development - notably soya production - in the southern region of Maranhão state.

The principal stations where general freight is loaded on to EFC trains are São Luís (km 0), Santa Inês (km 213), Açailãndia (km 514) and Marab? (km 737). The main commodities transported are fuels, pig iron, timber, vehicles, cement and grains.

The number of passengers using EFC has also increased, almost doubling from 424000 in 1992 to a record 835000 in 1996. The average length of journey in 1996 was 334 km.

Train control

Day-to-day management of EFC is based at São Luís where the Operational Control Centre (OCC) is located. Communications rely on microwave links serving all interlockings where trains can pass.

All points are directly controlled by dispatchers at São Luís, and authority for trains to proceed is given by a display in the locomotive cab. This display shows the signal aspect (red, yellow or green) giving the maximum safe speed at any time; a device in the locomotive is able to stop the train if the speed exceeds 80 km/h.

Microprocessors in the OCC provide dispatchers with a continuous display showing the position of all trains along the railway, allowing them to arrange for crossings in the most efficient way.

Also located at São Luís is the Transport Information System (Sistema de Informaç?€?es do Transporte) which supports the management of railway operations. Sitrans holds all the information regarding our customers' loading and transport schedules. This allows trains to be scheduled on a monthly basis, and it serves as a guide for the allocation of wagons to stations.

With a general overview of resources such as wagons, locomotives and personnel, and of the planned activities including maintenance, the schedulers are able to optimise use of the available fleet of locomotives and wagons. Instructions are sent automatically to yards so that wagons can be positioned for loading or unloading, and trains can be formed.

The performance of the whole operation is evaluated by comparing recorded or planned activities with established goals for the period.

Safety has been always given priority in EFC's on-going capital spending, which averaged US$18·4m a year from 1992 to 1996, and exceeded US$22m in both 1995 and 1996.

Infrared scanners located at nine places along the line (every 100 km) measure the surface temperature of axle bearings and wheels. Data is analysed by a central processor, allowing any rise in the temperature of a particular wheel or bearing to be monitored as the train passes along the line. If abnormal heating is detected, the train is stopped in time for preventive measures to be taken.

Approaches to points at passing stations or yards are protected by derailment and dragging equipment detectors. These consist of a bar between the rails which is broken by a derailed wheel, alerting the OCC which uses the cab signalling to stop the train before points are damaged and a costly wreck is caused.

Challenges for EFC

Privatisation of CVRD last May means that there is pressure to improve still further EFC's already impressive record of productivity improvements. Transport is a large element in the cost of iron ore delivered to the consumer, and CVRD must be able to compete in the international market.

The railway has always invested in technology and modernisation of its equipment, striving to optimise its capacity, production process and safety.

In the next few years, EFC plans to modernise its fleet of locomotives, buy more wagons for hauling iron ore, and develop an Advanced Train Control System. As in North America, ATCS will rely on the real time transmission of data between locomotives and the OCC, with train location data confirmed by passive transponders on the track.

EFC is at present developing computerised train dispatching, which in the final phase will be automated. This will be made possible by modular software based on algorithms which optimise dispatching decisions.

The first phase - already implemented - has automated production of the dispatcher's train graph. At present we are in the second phase, which aims to present the dispatcher with optimised schedules, allowing trains to meet and cross with minimum delay and waste of energy on braking.

The software will consider operational restrictions (speed limits, curves, gradients etc), the formal rules of dispatching, and lastly the experience of existing dispatchers.

To increase capacity, EFC is also studying the feasibility of increasing the tonnage carried by each ore train. One way is to raise the number of wagons per train beyond the present 204. Another is to increase the load carried by each wagon from 101 to 110 tonnes. These studies take into account the effect on the permanent way, wagons, locomotives, loading and unloading systems, signalling and train operation, as well as evaluating the dynamic behaviour of wagons and track as a whole.

Investment in modern equipment for maintaining the permanent way has improved safety and increased rail life. This has been achieved by correcting surface defects and detecting internal defects soon enough to prevent unplanned possessions to rectify track faults.

Before and after privatisation, EFC has effectively pursued cost reduction, maximised utilisation of resources, and optimised its productive processes. This has been possible through rapid decision making, the restructuring of management, and the performance and dedication of its employees who are now ready for new challenges.

  • Fig 1. Tonnage hauled by EFC has grown substantially in the 1990s
  • CAPTION: The author inspects a new GE-built Dash-9 diesel loco for the EFC line
  • CAPTION: Companhia Vale do Rio Doce operates two heavy haul routes in Brazil: the Vitória a Minas Railway (EFVM) in the southeast, and the Carajás Railway (EFC) in the Amazon basin
  • CAPTION: A pair of GE C30-7B diesels heads an iron ore train from Carajás towards the deep-water port at Ponta de Madeira near São Luís. Up to seven trains a day, each carrying over 20 000 tonnes, moved just under 45 million tonnes of ore in 1995

La société de chemins de fer de Carajás privatisée vise la productivité

En mai 1997 le gouvernement brésilien a vendu le plus grand exportateur de minerai de fer du monde. Specialisées dans les transports lourds, les deux compagnies ferroviaires au sein de CVRD étaient déjà rentables, et elles tentent maintenant de réduire encore les coûts unitaires. Au cours de ces prochaines années, la société des chemins de fer de Carajás (EFC) de CVRD projette de moderniser son parc de locomotives, d'acheter plus de wagons pour le transport du minerai de fer et de développer un système de contr?€?le de train avancé en utilisant la transmission des données en temps réel. A l'heure actuelle EFC met au point le dispatching informatisé des trains qui utilisera un logiciel modulaire basé sur des algorithmes pour optimiser les prises de décision

Privatisierte Carajás-Eisenbahn peilt Produktivität an

Im Mai 1997 verkaufte die brasilianische Regierung den bedeutendsten Eisenerzexporteur der Welt. Die beiden bereits effizienten Schwerlastgüterbahnen von CVRD streben eine weitere Reduzierung der Einheitskosten an. In den kommenden Jahren beabsichtigt CVRDs Carajás-Eisenbahn (EFC) eine Modernisierung ihres Lokomotivparks, den Erwerb weiterer Eisenerzwagen und die Entwicklung eines erweiterten Zugsteuerungssystems unter Verwendung einer Echtzeitdatenübertragung. EFC entwickelt derzeit eine rechnergestützte Zugabfertigung, die zur Optimierung der Entscheidungsfindung eine Modularsoftware auf der Basis von Algorithmen verwendet

Objetivos de productividad de los Ferrocarriles Privatizados Carajás

El mes de Mayo de 1997 vio la venta del mayor exportador de hierro por parte del gobierno brasileño. Las dos líneas de ferrocarril de rodaje pesado de la CVRD que ya eran lo suficientemente eficientes est? n intentando reducir costes aún m? s. En los próximos años, los Ferrocarriles Carajás de CVRD (EFC) planean modernizar su flota de locomotoras, adquirir m? s vagones para el transporte de mineral de hierro y desarrollar un Sistema de Control Avanzado de Trenes empleando transmisión de datos en tiempo real. El EFC se encuentra desarrollando en la actualidad un sistema de despacho computerizado de trenes que usa software modular basado en algoritmos para optimizar la toma de decisiones