Increased Investment in High Speed Rail to Push Demand for Composites

9th April 2013

Increased investment in new high speed rail (HSR) lines is creating exciting growth opportunities for HSR plastics and composites manufacturers. Demand levels are rising significantly due to expansion plans in some of the major HSR networks globally, especially China. In Europe, Spain is expected to provide impetus to market expansion.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Global Opportunities for Plastics and Composites in High Speed Rail, finds that the market earned revenues of $31.4 million in 2012 and estimates this to reach $35.7 million in 2018.

“Amidst concerns over their high costs, the greater penetration of composites in new high speed rolling stocks is an encouraging development,” remarked Frost & Sullivan’s Chemicals & Materials Industry Analyst Sandeepan Mondal . “It is expected that more than 60 percent of new HSR development will take place in Asia and Europe.”


High speed rail is increasing the demand for lightweight composite materials


Growing confidence about their advantages is encouraging wider use of composites in new rolling stock. OEMs are likely to incorporate larger quantities of composites due to benefits including lower life-time cost, significant weight reduction potential and higher strength-to-weight ratio.

“Much like the automotive industry and commercial aviation, the primary concern of the HSR industry has been high operational costs which is directly related to fuel- efficiency and weight,” noted Mondal. “Composites not only enable HSR OEMs to overcome these challenges, but also promote passenger safety since they enable high impact resistance in HSR rolling stock structures. In addition, high design flexibility, which translates to complex part manufacturability at competitive throughput rates, is also motivating OEMs to look at composites as better alternatives to metal.”

However, high cost (as compared to metals), lack of proper joining techniques, absence of standardisation (in terms of material grade), and poor reparability and recyclability all threaten to limit the penetration of composites in HSR applications. These factors are making OEMs and Tier-I suppliers wary of incorporating larger amounts of composites in HSR primary and secondary structures according to the report.

The paid for report is available via the Frost & Sullivan website.