TOKYO - Japan's top steelmaker said Thursday it has built a system to make and ship the longest pieces of railway track in the world, extending to 150 metres (492 feet).
Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal said its extra-long rails are more durable than shorter ones that need to be welded together and can offer passengers a quieter, more comfortable ride.
The company, the world's second-largest steelmaker after ArcelorMittal, has been making the 150-metre rails since 2002, but had to cut them to 25-metre or 50-metre units in order to send them to customers.
Train operators usually weld them together to recreate longer rails, often stretching to around 200 metres, to improve riding comfort and to reduce noise and oscillation, said Kayo Kikuchi, spokeswoman at the steelmaker.
Welding meant additional cost and maintenance for railway operators, she said.
"There has been the demand for longer rails, which would mean fewer welding points and less maintenance" for train operators, she said.
To transport the extra-long rails within Japan, the company will use special railway units comprising nine cargo cars joined together, she said.
To send them overseas, the firm has built cranes and other facilities to handle the extra long units and to send them on large cargo ships, Kikuchi said.
The company maintains a 60 per cent share of the rail market in Japan.
Its products have also been used by train operators in North America and Russia, as well as to transport minerals such as iron ore in Australia.