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Track to the Future research programme begins

30 June 2015  •  Author: Katie Sadler, Digital Content Producer, European Railway Review

An £8.5 million research programme known as Track to the Future (T2F) has launched this month aiming to develop railway tracks for the future.

Track to the Future research programme begins

Track to the future is a five year research collaboration between the Universities of Southampton, Birmingham, Huddersfield and Nottingham. Funded primarily by a £5.2 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the programme aims to develop low maintenance tracks that last longer, cost less and ultimately reduce disruption for travellers. In addition, a comprehensive industry partnership led by Network Rail will steer research and make use of the scientific discoveries.

The programme will address new pressures on railway infrastructure such as the increase in frequency and speed of trains due to demand, the time available for maintenance and environmental impacts including noise and vibration. Climate change on existing infrastructure will also be addressed including the impact on exposed coastal railways and vulnerable earthworks.

Professor William Powrie, from the University of Southampton and lead academic on T2F, said: “We are addressing these key challenges through state-of-the-art experimental and analytical techniques, and the integration of advanced behavioural models in the areas of geomechanics, track systems, vehicle dynamics, noise and vibration.

“By extending our scientific knowledge and developing new analytical tools, we will make it possible for engineers to design railway track systems that give longer, more reliable service at much reduced cost.”

The programme will be carried out in collaboration with industry and benefit from complementary research activities, including Strategic University Partnerships between Network Rail and the universities of Southampton, Birmingham and Nottingham, and between RSSB and Huddersfield; engagement of the university partners in FutureRailway and Shift2Rail and other publicly-funded railway infrastructure research; and facilities in the new National Infrastructure Laboratory at the Southampton Boldrewood Innovation Campus, as part of the UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UK-CRIC). 

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