E Oct 2013

All aboard! Destination southern Africa.

Africa today has a hotchpotch system of railways, with no less than five different gauges. Here many landlocked countries face huge problems when it comes to importing and exporting goods.

Luckily, it would appear that this situation is destined to come to an end soon: in fact, over the last few years we have seen renewed interest in rail transport in a number of countries, in particular those lying in the southern part of the continent, such as Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, not to mention South Africa of course, which has played an important role of catalyst and promoter in this far from easy task.

We’ve tried to give you an idea as to what’s brewing in this geographical area, so politically unstable while at the same time so strategically important for the world’s economy, thanks to the huge availability of raw materials.

On the Italian front, we are continuing with our series of investigations into urban and suburban transport with a quick look at the infrastructure of the most important regional railways in Italy. We met up with engineer Barra Caracciolo, Managing Director of Ferrovienord who has given our readers an outline of the company, from its history to upgrading works and innovative projects.

The result is the portrait of a complex and articulated company which since way back in 1879 has always been looking to the future, now more so than ever, with Expo 2015 scheduled to be held inMilan. In the coming months, Ferrovienord will present an innovative system for the recovery of brake energy on electric trains, the result of intense research and development work.

On the topic of railway engineering research, we interviewed Professor Andrea Bracciali, lecturer for the Course on Railway Material Construction which is part of the Master’s Degree Course in Mechanical Engineering at theUniversityofFlorence, and consultant with years’ of experience. He has important collaborations under his belt, both inItaly(with Gruppo FS Italiane and numerous regional railways) and abroad (for example with SNCF, the state railways inFrance).

A long chat revealed the incredibly wide range of situations in which the support of a top level consultant is essential in the rail sector: from the development and implementation of a new product, to the perfecting and implementation of international standards, not to mention involvement in court hearings investigating railway accidents.

So, all that remains is for us to wish you a pleasant read and remind you not to miss our next issue!