Researchers at University of Huddersfield developing designs as part of £6.5M Track to the Future project.
The Institute of Railway Research (IRR) is to take the lead in designing more efficient rail switches and crossings as part of a £6.5M project.
Based at the University of Huddersfield, the IRR aims to reduce the frequent and costly maintenance and replacement of this equipment – currently the lifespan of components in switches can be as short as three years. The work will mean that rail companies can specify design and materials for new switches which are optimised for the exact location where they’ll be laid.
IRR director Professor Simon Iwnicki said that although switches and crossings account for less than 1% of the entire route of UK railways, they take up 20% of expenditure on track maintenance. The aim of the research is to dramatically reduce these costs by designing the equipment to suit its specific location. Work will be done using computer modelling and new test facilities are also being constructed.
He 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.”
IRR head of research Dr Yann Bezin 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 IRR will have part of the £6.5M funding from the Track to the Future project, which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Other universities are also receiving funding include Southampton, Birmingham and Nottingham. Overall aims of the project include developing track with longer life and noiseless tracks.