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IHHA comes to Kiruna

01 Jun 2007

THE INTERNATIONAL Heavy Haul Association's Specialist Technical Session on June 11-13 is being hosted in northern Sweden by LKAB, which produces and transports iron ore and pellets to the ports of Narvik and Luleå, and Banverket, the national rail infrastructure manager responsible for the track that carries LKAB's trains.

The focus of technical interest in Kiruna for IHHA delegates will be the long-established heavy haul operation that links iron ore mines around 200 km from the sea to the ice-free port of Narvik in Norway, and also in the opposite direction to Luleå at the head of the Gulf of Bothnia. The railway between the two ports is 473 km long, and apart from 39 km in Norway, the line in Sweden for which Banverket is responsible is known as the Malmbanan.

This single-track line was originally constructed between 1898 and 1902 to standards that would not be considered appropriate for heavy haul as the term is used today. There are 25 tunnels and 125 bridges in rugged terrain requiring numerous sharp curves and steep gradients, and the axleload when it opened was only 14 tonnes.

Subsequent improvements include electrification at 15 kV 162/3 Hz completed in 1915. After the pioneering separation in 1988 of rail infrastructure from train operations in Sweden, LKAB sought to control directly the transport by rail of its principal product. This was achieved by setting up a subsidiary train operating company in Sweden called Malmtrafik I Kiruna AB (MTAB).

In 1996 Norway followed Sweden's example and established Jernbaneverket to own and manage the national rail infrastructure, including the isolated line to Narvik. Iron ore trains to Narvik are now managed within Norway by Malmtrafikk AS, a subsidiary of MTAB.

LKAB had two objectives: one was to control the cost of the operation, and the other was to develop the Malmbanan into an efficient heavy haul railway, raising the axleload from 25 to 30 tonnes, procuring new wagons and locomotives, and operating longer and heavier trains to improve productivity. Loading and unloading arrangements had to be replaced by new facilities.

Banverket's task was to meet LKAB's future requirements. Increasing capacity for higher traffic and heavier axleloads takes time, so planning and construction started well in advance of introduction. This work started in 1998, and the project will be completed in 2010.

For LKAB, the benefit from 30 tonne axleloads that became available to Luleå on October 1 2000 is that the payload per car is increased by 25% from 80 to 100 tonnes. The extension of sidings on the southern section of the Malmbanan to accept 750 m long trains means that the standard train formation to Luleå is now 68 cars, rather than 52 cars still being hauled to Narvik today. Together these changes allow the gross train weight to be increased from 5 200 to 8 160 tonnes.

The upgrade of the line to Narvik is still in progress and will be completed by 2010.