In 1989 Tubular Track was first offered to the South African Mining Industry, and the first underground installation was done at President Brand Mine. Since then, some 600 km of track has been installed in the mining industry.
The first South African and International patents were also registered in 1989. The first surface track for freight traffic was laid at Consul Glass in Wadeville in 1990. This has been followed by many successful applications, particularly in South Africa, but also in the USA and Canada. Some of the surface installations convey in excess of 2,5 million gross tons per annum, with axle loads up to 32 tons.
In 1993/94, Transnet Freight Rail’s world-class Track Testing Centre was commissioned to carry out comprehensive testing to validate the early theoretical work done Ove Arup Inc. A control test was done on an equivalent length of conventional track. These tests validated the design procedure, and demonstrated very clearly the dramatically reduced stress levels and deflections in Tubular Track as compared to conventional track. Further confirmation was obtained from in-track tests, and on this basis Transnet Freight Rail approved the system for use in yards and sidings.
In 1995, Transnet Freight Rail approved the installation of a test section adjacent to a platform at Braamfontein Station in Johannesburg. This is one of the busiest commuter stations in the country, but freight and mainline passenger traffic also passes through. This Tubular Track installation carries in excess of 15 million tons per annum.
The successful development of Tubular Track turnouts followed. These have been constructed at sidings on the coal export line and at the Richards Bay Coal terminal, and carry axle loads up to 32 tons. Again, excellent geometric stability and reduced maintenance have been achieved. What is of great significance is that these turnouts were constructed on 48kg rail and have carried in excess of 30 million tons.
During 2003, precast modules designed for main line (22ton axle loads) conditions were tested at the Transnet Freight Rail Track Testing Centre in Johannesburg. A report on the successful tests has been prepared by Africon Engineering International and Transnet Freight Rail. After simulating a five year main line usage period, settlement in the system of about 1mm was measured, with absolutely no damage to the precast modules or the grout underlying the modules. In-track testing then took place on a clay section of the North West Ore Line where a total of one million nett tons of coal and iron ore are transported monthly. Some 25 million tons have since passed over this section, which has required no maintenance.