The switch point is a mechanical connection on railway tracks that are used to guide the wheels toward straight or diverging tracks. Whereas the switch point heating system is a device installed on railway tracks to meltdown the snow and ice that gets accumulated between the tracks. This heating system plays a crucial role in avoiding accidental situations, such as locomotive derailing. To facilitate efficient performance, the switch point heating systems utilize various methods, including electric heating, liquid heating, and gas heating. Presently, electric heating is one of the most popular methods used in the switch point heating systems.
Accumulation of snow on railway tracks is one of the biggest challenges confronted by the railway authorities in several regions as it can derail the locomotive resulting in fatal accidents. In January 2010, in Scotland, a freight train derailed pass the Carrbridge railway station. Adverse environmental conditions like extreme snowfall increase the risk of rail accidents as ice accumulates between the rail tracks, thus urging the demand for switch point heating systems. As per the statistical data reported by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), non-main-track accidents, excluding accidents while crossing the railway tracks and those caused due to the presence of trespassers were to the tune of more than 77% of the total number of rail accidents reported in Canada in 2015.
The global switch point heating system market is expected to grow at a CAGR 3.2% during the forecast period, 2023–2031.
In the past few years, global import-export and overall transportation activities are snowballing. Also, leading manufacturers are focusing on establishing global production and value chains for expanding the businesses, maximizing operating profits, and maintaining a consistent supply of products. To achieve the same, several players are importing raw materials in bulk for the manufacturing of final products in the regions with low availability of raw materials. With the rapidly growing worldwide rail network, the transport of heavy-duty goods by railways has exponentially increased. As a result, there is a pressing need for an efficient switch point heating system to shrug off the accumulated ice from the railings.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the total freight transport in units accounted for around 22.8 million in 2013 and 24.9 million in 2017. In line with the increasing trade activities and mounting pressure on the current transportation infrastructure, the governments of different countries have started investing heavily to strengthen the railway transport infrastructure. The inland transport system in the Western countries witnessed a surge in the investment by 42% in 2015. Similarly, the U.K. government invested 57% more amount than in 2015. In the same year, India, China, and the U.S. upped investments by 31%, 18%, and 38% respectively.
The galvanized steel type segment, owing to the property that ensures minimal fire damage, outshines other type segments. Hot-dip galvanized steel protects itself from corrosion for a hundred years. Besides, features such as lower cost, excellent resistance to mechanical damage, long life expectancy, and less maintenance are accelerating the segment’s growth. On the other hand, galvanizing steel is less expensive than nickel steel. In the railway point heating system, a flat tubular heater of a heating voltage around 230 V AC is used in different lengths with specific heating power (W/m): 330, 500, or 700. It is ensured that heating rods are made from high quality, corrosion-resistant chrome-nickel steel, with approximately 10 years of service life.
Furthermore, Monel, an alloy of copper and nickel, is resistant to seawater. The alloy possesses excellent corrosion resistance features and is also characterized by good welding ability, moderate-high strength, and increased life span. According to the China Ferroalloys Industry Association (CFIA), China produced around 26 million tons of stainless steel in 2018, which is up by 0.9% from 25.77 million tons in 2017. In June 2018, Chinese stainless-steel demand surpassed production.
North America is witnessing significant growth in the global switch point heating system market backed by a rapidly developing rail industry, especially in the U.S. and Canada. In tandem with this, governments of these countries are investing huge capital in building, maintaining, and expanding the rail networks. Several countries in North America are deploying heating systems to circumvent any potential delays or accidents. For example, in Chicago, the train tracks are set on fire to meltdown the ice and ensure the smooth running of the transportation services. Hence, the development of train infrastructure in the U.S. is foreseen to propel the regional switch point heating system market demand. In 2017, North America and Europe witnessed a 10% increase in the number of commuters using metro systems as compared to 2016. In September 2018, the Brightline Trains, a private rail company, launched the first high-speed rail routes in Florida. Moreover, the U.S. is planning to build a 27,000 km national high-speed rail system in four phases by 2030 to meet the growing commuters demand. According to the International Trade Administration, in 2018, Canada secured 19th position in the world’s largest steel exporter.
Europe is dominating the global switch point heating system market and is expected to continue dominating during the forecast period, 2020–2029. The region witnessed an astounding growth in the number of accidents during the winters in tandem with the growing prevalence of heavy snowfall and deadly avalanches. According to the Weather Channel in Europe, global warming is indicative of affecting Germany and Austria adversely and is foreseen to bring heavy snowfall in the countries. Snowfall compels railway lines to shut down for passenger security. The urging need for railway transportation in day to day lives is encouraging governments and private market players to bring about the expansion of the railway network, which is expected to upturn the demand for switch point heating systems market. For example, the German government and National railway company ‘Deutsche Bahn’ agreed to invest approximately USD 95.59 billion for strengthening the rail network during 2019–2029.
In Asia-Pacific, the burgeoning deforestation and industrialization activities are leading to a considerable rise in the region’s temperatures, that being the cause, the region is observing stagnant growth rate in the global switch point heating system market. According to the reports, the temperature in the Asia-Pacific region is predicted to increase from 0.5° to 2°C by 2030 and 1°to 7°C by 2070. Despite rising temperatures and climate variations, seasonal rainfall is being witnessed by some of the countries such as South Korea, Australia, and Japan. For instance, the snow cover in the Australian Alps lasts for over 3 to 4 months.
In Latin America, the switch point heating system market is experiencing healthy growth in some countries such as Chile and Argentina due to surplus seasonal snowfall. Growing tourism in the snow-capped Andes in Argentina and Chile is stimulating extensive use of railways. According to the World Tourism Organization, Argentina attracts close to 5.7 million tourists every year
The Middle East and Africa region is drastically affected by growing temperatures and unfavorable environmental conditions. Political instability and sluggish industrial growth are some of the other determinants responsible for the declining market growth in the region. The region holds the least market share is expected to continue the same during the forecast period, 2020–2029.
Some of the notable market players include
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