Railway at bllue hour
Image Source: Infomastern
Nick Hill

Huddersfield University commences research on £6.5m Track to the Future project

Huddersfield University’s Institute of Railway Research is beginning work on a £6.5m, five-year project named Track to the Future.

The aim of the project is to enhance the way railways operate by creating long-life tracks that require much less frequent maintenance.

The scheme, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is being carried out by three other universities, with Huddersfield’s IRR joining Southampton, Birmingham and Nottingham, reports CILT.

One aim is to develop noiseless tracks, which will improve the quality of life for people living in the vicinity of rail lines. This will soon become a vital environmental issue as railways move towards 24-hour operation.

However, the Huddersfield Institute’s main focus will be on the development of switches and crossings, as these components of the network are prone to wear and tear because the blades of switches are made of thinner rail and also have to take extra heavy loads as they guide vehicles at speed.

The Director of the Institute, Professor Simon Iwnicki, claimed that switches and crossings account for 20% of total costs on track maintenance. The aim of the Institute’s research is to make significant reductions in these costs.

The IRR will attempt to produce optimised designs for switches, as a new layout and geometry could improve the support for wheels and gradually reduce the pressure they exert as they cross the transition point.

Professor Simon Iwnicki said: “Instead of just having a simple cross-section and a standard material right the way through, we might decide to optimise the way that the material is put through the switch, and the geometry of it.”

New test facilities are being constructed by the IRR in the labs at the University of Huddersfield, where the new designs will be tested.

These new developments and research will be revolutionary for railways, as there are some components in switches that currently last only for three years.

Dr Yann Bezin, head of research at the Institute, added: “Our numerical simulation tools have already helped manufacturers understand keys issues with specific installations and help them assess potential corrective actions before significant money is spent in the field. Likewise, they can be used earlier in the design process to achieve an optimum design from the start, thus reducing maintenance needs in the future.”

The EPSRC awarded £6.5 million for Track to the Future after a detailed proposal from the consortium partners, including Professor Iwnicki and Dr Bezin.

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