HAD SOME catastrophe struck Rio de Janeiro on June 13-16, the railway industry would have been deprived of what is arguably the world’s most valuable gathering of railway engineering expertise.

Around 600 delegates attended the IHHA’s eighth conference, where around 100 technical papers were presented. The papers, and those from the previous seven events, amount to a treasured resource for the 11 members of IHHA, and we have no hesitation in recommending them to other railways not involved in heavy haul. The IHHA’s collective knowledge of the wheel-rail interface and track-train dynamics is second to none, and what happens in the critical area of the contact patch affects every operator of steel wheels on steel rails. Copies of the papers can be obtained by contacting the IHHA: ihha@erols.com

Just to confirm that there is no let up in the advance of heavy haul technology, Mike Darby, Vice-President, Railways, for BHP Iron Ore, revealed in the opening session at Rio what his company plans for the future. Having trebled tonne-km per employee over the least decade, BHPIO is now looking at cruise control and automated operation ’within five years’, as well as 40 tonne axleloads and cable-based ECP braking. On automation, Derby says that ’if anyone can do it, we can’.