Increasing the availability of locomotives and rollingstock

For the rail industry, continuous improvement of locomotive and rollingstock availability 
is crucial to maintaining productivity, prioritising safety and reducing operating costs. 
Enhancement of availability requires access to expert investigations in cases of
materials defects, premature deterioration and insufficient component life. 
UniQuest’s service business UQ Materials Performance (UQMP) specialises in
the investigation of materials defects, mitigation of risks associated with fatigue
and advice in relation to asset life extension.


UQ Materials Performance (UQMP)

Founded in 1998, UQMP provides professional consultancy, expert opinion and contract research services in materials engineering, with a focus on component failure investigations. As a service business of UniQuest, UQMP has grown to become one of Australia’s leading consultancies in the field of materials science and engineering.

UQMP’s expertise spans:
  • Materials and mechanical failure investigations 
  • Microscopy, materials analysis, characterisation and testing 
  • Stress analysis and mechanical design evaluation 
  • Wear mitigation and durability evaluation
  • Expert opinion and forensic engineering

UQ’s specialist equipment used by UQMP includes:

  • stereo microscopy
  • scanning electron microscopy and EDS microanalysis
  • Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy
  • X-Ray photoelectron spectroscopy
  • X-Ray diffraction
  • atomic force microscopy
UniQuest, UQMP and Aurizon

Over the past five years, UniQuest has carried out numerous investigations on a broad range of components for Aurizon, Australia’s largest rail freight operator.  These engagements focussed on greater wagon productivity, addressing coal wagon component defects, remaining life prediction and extension and recommendation for design improvements. 

Substantial work has been done by UQMP’s materials and mechanical engineers to investigate: Aurizon coal wagon welding for repair and modifications; mid-length axle fatigue cracking; axle journal fretting fatigue; wheel metallurgical characterisation; defects and damage in drawgear yokes, knuckles and pins; yoke weld repairs; and drawgear carrier casting quality assessment.

In spite of current challenges in the resources sector, including volatile commodity prices and global competition, Australia’s freight task is expected to increase substantially over the next decade. In an environment of lower prices and increasing volumes being shipped, it is imperative that the rail industry reduce production costs and improve cost efficiency while continuing to operate safely.

Aurizon is improving productivity by an increase in the availability of locomotives and rollingstock and the implementation of innovative maintenance practices. UQMP has been retained by Aurizon to recommend innovative coal wagon design improvements to increase wagon life and reduce maintenance costs. UQMP has also advised on drawgear components, the performance of which affects train unit performance and with particular relevance to longer trains being employed by Aurizon to reduce overall fuel costs and improve availability.

Aurizon runs 53 trains daily on the Central Queensland Coal Network (CQCN) servicing the Bowen Basin. With a fleet of over 200 locomotives and some 6,000 wagons and one of the world’s
busiest coal networks, increased axle and wheel life though better understanding of the causes of defects and premature degradation has a crucial impact on Aurizon’s business performance.

In the worst case, unexpected failure of wheels, axles and drawgear can cause train separations or even derailment of multiple wagons.  If they occur, such events can have adverse effects on railway personnel, and can result in major loss of network capacity and productivity.   Major incidents of this type can result in significant disruption and costs in terms of repairs and lost production, of the order of $9m to $15m. UQMP advice has significantly contributed to reducing the risk of derailments caused by wagon failures and so reduced Aurizon’s potential lost production costs.

UQMP materials science researchers and engineers have made a significant contribution to keeping Aurizon’s coal operations and the supply chain efficient and safe through metallurgical inspections of wagon components, the provision of advice on the causes of failure and recommendations for changed operational, engineering maintenance, inspection and metallurgical practices. 

UniQuest projects have significantly contributed to reducing the risk of derailments caused by wagon failures and so reduced Aurizon’s lost production costs.


Contact us today to discuss your materials performance needs and to learn how
UniQuest and UQMP can help your business.


Download this case study (PDF, 191KB)

UniQuest Contact: 

Chris Gourlay

Director of Operations, Expertise Commercialisation
Mobile phone: 
+61 429 201 480
Work phone: 
+61 (7) 3365 4037