Expanding horizons

With two decades of knowledge in railway engineering, YAPIRAY has established a position as the most important multifunctional rail systems company in Turkey

Specialising in solutions for turnkey rail system projects, the maintenance and repair of current lines, and high-engineering designs, YAPIRAY is also an expert in the manufacture of concrete sleepers, pre-stressed concrete bearers and slab tracks, with its own brand RAYTON.

When it comes to the production of sleepers and slab tracks, YAPIRAY focuses on offering what Volkan Okur Yilmaz, General Manager, described as a ‘mobile’ solution. “This is so that we can Yapiray bproduce these elements next to the construction site, minimising the logistics costs for our clients,” he explained. “Our production units can be mobilised in three to five months to anywhere in the world. Depending on the total quantity, our heavy concrete products can then be produced on-site, saving clients the high cost of transportation. Additionally, as we specialise in railway trackwork construction, we are very aware of contractor needs on-site, so we can assist in solving any technical problems about the cross-section of track – not only sleeper or slab track solutions. These activities are all executed by our in-house teams.

“Indeed, our Design and Technology Department, Project Management Office, Machinery Department and Production Department all work very closely together, and this means that we can provide customised solutions for each and every sort of railway project, even if they have several different requirements. This well-managed interface between departments is really beneficial in the development of products.”

The concrete products manufactured by YAPIRAY are known for their high level of quality and long service life, and Volkan noted that its production system has been carefully designed in order to ensure that its products meet the needs of its clients. “We operate a ‘carousel system’ in accordance with UIC 713, which includes stations for preparing, stressing of tendons, casting, curing and demoulding. The tendons are anchored to the concrete by means of end plates. The pre-stressing force acting on the concrete is provided by these end plates, and this is basically one of the healthiest ways of transferring load to the concrete,” he noted, before continuing with more details about the benefits of prefabricated slab tracks compared to ballasted tracks. “Primarily, compared to ballasted tracks, concrete track systems are more maintenance-friendly systems. Especially if you need to achieve speeds of more than 250 km/hour speed slab tracks are inevitable.

“A prefab system provides the best finishing quality and very efficient productivity on-site if you compare it with in situ concrete track solutions. As a trackwork contractor and as a sleeper production company, we have noticed that prefab technology is the future for railway trackwork systems, and we have decided to increase our prefab production capacity.”

Volkan used the Istanbul Airport Metro as an example to illustrate the benefits of prefabricated products: “In situ reinforced concrete trackwork solutions were the preferred option in the past. But, for contractors, these required a lot of effort in reinforcing steel and in situ concrete construction inside long and narrow metro tunnels. In addition, the quality of the work was not always satisfactory for operators,” he said.

“Instead, we have developed a prefabricated slab track system, and this has transferred much of the workforce into a well-organised workshop rather than on a construction site inside the tunnels. This added lots of quality to the end-product and lots of flexibility to the construction planners.

“We have also avoided the usage of steel reinforcement and utilised GFRP bars or macro and micro synthetic fibres, which helped us to create a safe and sound environment for the track in terms of signalling requirements. This has also increased the service life of the track as this solution is corrosion-free.”

Having mentioned the Istanbul Airport Metro, Volkan continued to illustrate YAPIRAY’s expertise with reference to some other significant high profile projects of which the company has been part. “We are now at the launch stage of the Istanbul Airport Metro Connection project. At this phase of the construction, we are handling the mobilisation and we are about to start the production of the slabs in Istanbul. The first challenge was the design calculations and the prototype production with the new moulds. We have given the last shape to the product and it took us about 30 weeks.

“We now need to develop the concrete design mix in accordance with the available materials on site. Our quality engineers are about to wrap up their study. In a few weeks, we will say ‘go’ to the production team.Yapiray c

“We are also working on mock-ups. This is a ‘learning procedure’ and is helping us a lot prior to the actual application on site. We will soon be faced with logistics, environmental conditions, material supplies and so forth so there are further challenges waiting for us!”

There are three other major projects being handled at YAPIRAY – a 400-km double-track high-speed line (HSL) in Turkey; a 400-km single track in Ethiopia; and a 700-km single track in Tanzania. “The Ankara-Sivas HSL will be Turkey’s highest speed railway line with a speed of 300 kmph, and a total single line slab track length of 150 km between Ankara and Sivas. It is constructed as ballasted track at grade sections and on top of viaducts, and as ballastless track (slab track) inside the tunnels. As YAPIRAY, we support two general contractors as sleeper and slab track supplier, and we also support our mother company YAPI MERKEZI, that is one of them, for the trackwork construction. It will hopefully be opened in the second quarter of 2020,” explained Volkan.

High speed projects are generally considered challenging and Volkan noted that this particular scheme includes several ground-breaking applications for Turkey such as the country’s first HSL with 300kmph speeds, its first HSL where slab tracks are utilised, and its first HSL with B07 railway sleepers. “These initial requirements inside the country led to lots of different interface problems,” he said. “We have solved these technical topics thanks to our engineering team’s experience on several previous projects. Regarding the design approval tests of the slab tracks, we have collaborated with Istanbul Technical University in addition to international independent laboratories. We’ve needed to design the individual components such as sleepers and slab tracks together with the trackwork superstructures and the transition zones as well.”

Clearly no strangers to a challenge, YAPIRAY is also working on projects in Africa together with YAPI MERKEZI, in Ethiopia and Tanzania. “These locations have very hard environments for greenfield project applications, and the Ethiopia and Tanzania projects are similar in terms of geography and logistics as they are both greenfield inland projects,” said Volkan.

“In Ethiopia, we are working on a standard gauge, ballasted track of 400 km, which has a design speed of 120 kmph and an axle load of 22.5 tons. The first phase of the project, which is 270 km single track, is already completed, with testing and commissioning on-going. The second phase of the project has now been 15 per cent completed, and we are targeting to complete all the trackwork at the end of 2020. By the way, we completed all the sleeper production for this project in 2018!

“In Tanzania, we are working on a railway line for Heavy Haul (HH, 35 tons of axle load) transport with speeds of 80-120 kmph for freight, and 160kmph for passenger trains. On this project, we are using AREMA standards together with EN and UIC standards, and are now producing HH sleepers in two different factories in Tanzania. This is a two-phase project, with the first phase to be completed by the end of 2020 (the first 300 km single line) and the second phase of the project has just started, with the total completion of the line will in 2021, hopefully.”

YAPIRAY has confronted multiple challenges in Africa, as Volkan indicated: “Working on-site far away from logistic centres is not easy from all sorts of several perspectives, such as logistics, machinery, raw material supply, customs, procurement, workforce and so on. You first have to establish your camp as almost ‘a new town’ considering all these difficulties mentioned.

“These projects also require high levels of technical knowledge from a range of specialities, including the mixed traffic needed for heavy haul freight and passenger trains, single line construction, and the high quality demanded by the client according to international standards such as EN, UIC and AREMA. There are also very tight time schedules for construction, harsh budgetary limits and a high level of demand on RAMS by the client.” This is where YAPIRAY’s experience working in several different environments comes into its own, with the company’s flexible approach meaning that it can adapt to changing demands in terms of economic, social and cultural skills. “We can adjust ourselves according to varying circumstances and we can achieve desirable results in international and multinational railway projects all across the globe,” Volkan confirmed.

From speaking to Volkan, he is clearly very proud of YAPIRAY’s work in Africa, and the contribution that the company is making to the continent. “Africa is one of the fastest emerging continents of the world, and constructing new railway lines there is deeply profound, as a railway line is not only important in terms of mass transit but also crucial for the development of the 27continent’s total economy. We need to work together with our European partners in order to increase the sources to help Africa develop their railway network as much as possible.”

Completing the on-going projects referenced by Volkan will be where YAPIRAY is targeting its efforts over the next 12-18 months, however, its long-term target is to become a leading technological solution provider for railway system in the region. “We will also continue to work on trackwork solutions with less carbon footprint,” added Volkan, highlighting the importance of rail as a sustainable and green transportation solution. “Considering the current needs of the world, even if the investment costs are higher than road transportation at the beginning; it is not difficult to foresee that the future of rail transportation is the brightest, as the world seeks ways to transport goods and passengers in an economic, environmental and efficient manner.” Given the experience YAPIRAY can bring to both sophisticated rail-using countries, and those that are now embracing the most technologically advanced solutions, the company is ideally positioned to benefit from all these opportunities in the future.