RSSB and the Engineeringand Physical SciencesResearch Council (EPSRC) are set to jointly fund three academic research projects on new materials which aim to reduce the whole-life costs of railway assets.
In October 2014 a £2million joint call for research was launched, supported by the Department for Transport, seeking cutting edge research on the topic. A high number of good quality proposals were received from a number of universities across the UK.
The final funding decision was made by a panel of key industry and academic experts, which included representatives from the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), Railway Industry Association (RIA) and RSSB, as well as a number of academic experts.
The three projects set to receive funding include:
- Whole-life cost Assessment of Novel materials Railway Drainage Systems, University of Nottingham: This project will look at the use and whole-life cost of new lightweight and string materials within rail-track drainage systems. ‘New materials’ includes those recently developed and materials that can be newly applied within drainage systems. The potential advantages of lightweight materials for drainage systems relate to the ease of transport, handling and installation, as well as whole-life costs.
- Rail-energy knowledge exchanges on emerging materials (ALCHEMy), University of Sheffield: This project aims to enable a step change in the life of high-value track components, initially to include switchblades, crossing noses, and insulated block joints. This will be achieved by developing techniques needed to understand, optimise and design functionally graded materials through a large-scale additive manufacturing process (laser cladding) for application on these components.
- Designing steel composition and microstructure to better resist degradation during wheel rail contact, Consortia involving University of Huddersfield, Cranfield University, University of Cambridge and University of Leeds:
This project aims to provide a better understanding of the response of various microstructural constituents of steels to the loads imposed on them during wheel-rail contact, identify the characteristics of the steel which are important to resist the key degradation mechanisms and develop a methodology for optimising steel grade choices at a granular level based on cost-benefit analysis.
Further information on the initiative and the projects funded are available via SPARK.