GERMANY: Karlsruhe regional light rail operator AVG is to test glass-reinforced plastic electrification masts supplied by the Powerlines Group at a turning loop in Ettlingen from September.
A similar GRP mast has been on test at Oostende on the Belgian coastal tram line since 2013, where it is exposed to salty sea air blowing in from the North Sea. ‘Since GRP masts are not subject to rust, they have a notably longer working life than masts made of steel’, explains AVG Project Manager Peter Masino. ‘They need to be replaced far less often, eliminating the usual follow-up costs for maintenance.’
Manufacturing uses approximately a third less energy than conventional concrete or steel masts, and the reduced weight of GRP makes transport and installation simpler and cheaper, with an 11 m mast weighing 800 kg.
Non-conductive GRP masts also provide safety benefits compared to steel, according to Powerlines CEO Gerhard Ehringer, and the overhead electrification needs ‘a significantly smaller number of insulators, if any, since earthing is usually not required.’
The price of a GRP masts is still higher than for steel and concrete masts, but AVG expects costs to drop once the long-term testing is completed and series production begins.