Environmental protection makes good economic sense

Sustainability is the key to ballast bed cleaning: We ensure cost-efficiency through high-quality. Our aim is to implement the best technical solution offering the greatest long-term benefit.

Sustainability also means handling resources responsibly during machine production and using environmentally friendly oils and fuels economically. Our sustainable ballast bed cleaning technologies involve the highly efficient reprocessing of ballast directly in the machine, reduction of lorry runs thanks to material logistics in the track under repair, lower noise pollution for line side residents and personnel, and reduced exhaust emissions at work sites.


Our machines contribute to protecting the environment during working operation. An example is on-track ballast reprocessing on our machines. Track laying and maintenance require large quantities of ballast. The amount of new ballast needed is estimated to be around 600,000 t in Switzerland, between 500,000 and 700,000 t in Austria, and around 4 mill. t in Germany. New ballast costs about 10 euros per tonne; costs for deposited ballast amount to around 60 euros per tonne. To handle these quantities and the resulting costs, Plasser & Theurer has developed the following technologies:

  • ballast screens for pre-cleaning heavily soiled ballast,
  • ballast washing plants for finely soiled ballast,
  • ballast crushing plants for reprocessing old ballast.

Today, these technologies are used in varying combinations on several types of machine.


In addition to the advantages described above, a cleaned ballast bed emits significantly less noise than a soiled one. In general, the sound radiation of slab track is up to 5 dB(A) higher.

If the ballast bed has been thoroughly cleaned and if the grain size is right, the ballast does not only reduce the structure-borne noise but also provides acoustic insulation as the ballast bed mass acts like a insulation mass (Fastenrath, F.: Die Eisenbahnschiene (The Rail), Wilhelm & Ernst Sohn, page 63). Solidified ballast beds are more likely to cause corrugations, contributing to noise emissions.

Cleaning the ballast bed at the right time also helps to keep the track clear of weed. During cleaning, the fine particles are removed from the ballast, preventing seeds from germinating. Ballast cleaning is a mechanical method for removing weed without using chemicals.

Expert tip

On-track ballast bed cleaning benefits the environment significantly:

  • Sustainable use of ballast resources
  • Reduction of the noise emitted by rolling stock
  • Removal of weed without chemicals


Spoil disposal has both economic and ecological objectives. Its economic objectives include ensuring the required capacities for the tight time windows and reducing logistic costs. The ecological objectives include the careful handling of natural resources and minimising emissions during spoil disposal.

In the past it was standard practice to deposit spoil next to the track. Today, it must be transported to disposal sites, particularly if it contains hazardous substances. In station areas, tight line sections and tunnels, spoil must be taken away in any event.

The material conveyor and hopper units from our MFS series combine conveyor belt, hopper and depositing device, making them a universal solution. The MFS units handle the material in the track under repair without any losses in the ballast cleaning machine’s output.

They take the spoil material from the ballast cleaning machine and transport it via longitudinal conveyor belts to hopper units coupled to the work train or store the material until filled hopper units are exchanged with empty ones. This makes it possible to easily handle the material our high-capacity ballast cleaning machines excavate – at full capacity, during full excavation.

The number of MFS units depends on the work site conditions and the operating conditions. They can be put together to a material train of any length.