THE University of Southern Queensland (USQ) has formed a partnership with Australian sleeper manufacturer Austrak and Laing O’Rourke to develop fibre-reinforced composite sleepers and bridge transoms.

The $A 10m ($US 7.1m) project aims to build on USQ’s previous research in this area and is being supported by the Australian federal government, which is providing a $A 3m grant through the Cooperative Research Centre Projects initiative.

An estimated 90% of Australia’s timber railway sleepers and transoms are due for replacement over the next 10 years, including those on the rail deck of Sydney Harbour Bridge.

USQ says that over the next five years infrastructure managers in Australia will move away from timber sleepers, which have a lifespan of around 15 years to engineered composite units, which offer a 50-year lifespan and lower material volume while complying with all railway strength and stiffness requirements.