Composite sleepers on Sherrington viaduct near Salisbury (Photo: Network Rail)

UK: Network Rail has announced its first main line use of composite sleepers made from recycled plastic. These have been installed on Sherrington viaduct between Salisbury and Warminster where weight restrictions previously required the use of wood rather than concrete.

Creosote-treated softwood sleepers are to be banned from July 31, and the composite sleepers manufactured by Sicut Ltd using a blend of locally-sourced plastic waste offers an alternative to hardwood.

The composite sleepers can resist water, oil, chemicals and fungi and are expected not to split, rot or degrade over time. They have a design life of more than 50 years, and can be reused, repurposed or recycled when eventually replaced. The longer service life and reduced maintenance compared with timber should reduce whole life costs and the need for maintenance staff to work on the line.

‘Sicut is delighted to have been selected by Network Rail as its sole supplier of composite railway sleepers’, said the manufacturer’s CEO William Mainwaring. ‘Having proven that our products meet the performance required we look forward to working closely with every Network Rail route and region to deliver the commercial and environmental savings promised by our technology, while at the same time helping the UK deliver on its commitments on carbon reduction and plastic waste proliferation.’