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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/H044949/1
Title: Railway Track for the 21st Century
Principal Investigator: Powrie, Professor W
Other Investigators:
Roberts, Professor C McDowell, Professor G Priest, Dr JA
Preston, Professor JM Jones, Dr CJC Zervos, Dr A
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr JA Priest
Project Partners:
Balfour Beatty Plc Network Rail Rail Safety & Standards Board
Railway Industry Association Scott Wilson Tata Steel Limited
Department: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment
Organisation: University of Southampton
Scheme: Programme Grants
Starts: 01 June 2010 Ends: 30 November 2015 Value (£): 3,139,383
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Transport Ops & Management
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Construction Transport Systems and Vehicles
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
02 Mar 2010 Engineering Programme Grant Interview Panel Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The majority of the world's railways - including all main lines in the UK - are currently on ballasted track. Although there have been developments in component specifications and materials, the principles of the system have changed little over the past 150 years. Ballasted track has generally been considered to offer the optimum solution in terms of construction cost, stiffness and drainage properties, and ease of modification: thus although more highly engineered track forms have been used (e.g. in Japan, Germany and China), ballasted track has been employed both for upgrades such as the UK West Coast Main Line and for new high speed lines including HS1 (UK), TGV (France) and AVE (Spain). However, the limitations of ballasted track as currently constructed are becoming more apparent and more significant as the demands placed upon it have increased. This has led to higher than expected maintenance requirements and costs, and demonstrates that a transformation in track performance - by retro-fit measures for existing ballasted track, or by an informed decision in favour of an alternative track system in the case of large-scale renewals - is essential if the Government's aspirations of reduced cost and increased capacity for rail transport are to be realised. This Programme Grant will bring about a step-change improvement in the engineering, economic and environmental performance of railway track making it fit for a 21st century railway, by developing new techniques for its design, construction and maintenance. By obtaining a better understanding of the behaviour of track components, the interactions between them and their response to external loading and environmental conditions, the performance of railway track can be significantly enhanced. Improved understanding will allow the development of more effective and efficient maintenance and renewal strategies, leading in turn to reduced costs, increased capacity and improved reliability. The Programme Grant will also enable a radical overhaul of current railway track design appropriate for both new build (e.g. HS2) and upgrades to meet current and future train loading requirements more efficiently than is at present possible. Meeting these challenges will require a coordinated programme of research to investigate how the various components of the track system relate to each other and to external factors. This will involve a series of inter-related experiments together with supporting mathematical and numerical modelling, field monitoring and observation. The outputs of these studies will feed into economic modelling work, leading to the production of a decision-support tool, for use by industry, to appraise the cost implications of using different track technologies in combination with specific external factors. The aims of this Programme Grant can only be achieved by combining a variety of skills and techniques. The research team therefore comprises world-leading engineers and scientists from different disciplines and universities, working together to apply their collective expertise. A well-defined organisational structure and adaptable methods of operation will together provide a high level of integration and synergy between the various research areas and activities; excellent communications between the researchers, institutions and industry partners; flexibility in the allocation and use of resources; agility and responsiveness in research direction; proactive management of risk; and ownership and early uptake of research results by industry.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.soton.ac.uk