Wabtec Corporation has announced an agreement to modernise locomotives for Fortescue Metals Group, representing Wabtec’s delivery of the first fleet of modernised locomotives for an Australia-based customer.
The fleet will be transformed into AC44C6M locomotives to meet the performance requirements of Fortescue while delivering operational and environmental efficiencies, it explained.
“While we have completed more than 1,000 modernisations for customers globally, it’s a first for Australia and demonstrates Fortescue’s commitment to drive more sustainable rail operations,” Wendy McMillan, Senior Regional Vice President, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, said.
“By repurposing and rebuilding our locomotives, we give these heavy-haul trains another 20 years of life, while reducing the fuel consumption and maintenance, and repair and overhaul expenses by up to 20%. For Fortescue, the modernised trains will deliver up to a 55% increase in tractive effort and more than 40% increase in reliability.”
The modernised locomotives will benefit from improved performance and increased reliability with new features including a UX engine, new electrical cabinets, a new design high-efficiency radiator and radiator cab, an upgraded control system to remove obsolescence, and AC traction with individual axle control, Wabtec explained.
General Manager Hedland Operations, Mark Komene, said: “The procurement of the modernised locomotives is an important element of Fortescue’s locomotive fleet strategy. This newly modernised fleet will enable substantial long-term capital and operating costs savings, provide the latest traction and control technology, and enable future upgrades to alternative energy sources such as battery electric in support of Fortescue’s industry-leading target to be carbon neutral by 2030.”
The new AC44C6M locomotives will be rebuilt at Wabtec’s Fort Worth facility in Texas, USA, before making the journey to Western Australia over the next two years for deployment at Fortescue’s mining operations.
Wabtec’s modernisation program is a key component of the company’s effort to advance a circular economy. It updates ageing locomotives with customised solutions that range from simple changes including control system upgrades to complex restorations, such as the comprehensive transformation of an aged DC locomotive into an AC locomotive outfitted with state-of-the-art digital technology.
Fortescue, meanwhile, has progressively been looking to decarbonise its locomotive fleet, making plans to purchase two new battery-electric locomotives from Progress Rail, a Caterpillar Company, to transport its iron ore to port in Western Australia. This comes on top of trials at Fortescue Future Industries development facility in Western Australia of a locomotive operating solely on green ammonia and other green renewable fuels and technologies.