The half cost train: A back to basics look at train design and specification in pursuit of reduced whole life system cost

Problem statement

How can we reduce the whole life cost of the train system by half? Can we improve our understanding of engineering, economic and policy decisions to drastically cut costs and increase the sustainability of the railway?

These were the questions put to participants RRUKA’s ‘Half Cost Train’ workshop. Organised in association with and on behalf of ATOC (Association of Train Operator Companies), this workshop aimed to take a back-to-basics look at train design and specification in pursuit of a fifty percent reduction in whole life cost of the train system.

The participants

Participants from over 16 different UK universities and 13 industry organisations came together to hear about the issues, share their respective views, and discuss their ideas to generate fresh approaches to train design. With a good mixture of both those already involved in rail research, and those from other backgrounds, their respective expertise ranged from economics, policy, design, system modelling, passenger experience and ergonomics, to vehicle acceptance, sustainability, condition monitoring, safety, materials and procurement.

On the day

Louise Shaw (Head of Engineering– ATOC), David Clarke (Deputy Director: Rail Technical – DfT), Josef Doppelbauer (Chief Technical Officer – Bombardier Transportation), Nick Hortin (New Trains Director – First Group) and Nick Swift (Asset Manager – Eversholt Rail Group) gave presentations which provided participants with an insight into some of the issues from their respective rail industry stakeholder viewpoints. Simon Weeks (Head of Aerospace Research & Technology – Rolls-Royce) also presented on what happens in aviation, providing a different perspective and giving participants a view of how that process differs to what happens in rail.


“The event was excellent at bridging the gap between industry and academia”

Imperial College

“I was impressed with the knowledge amongst the academics”



After the event

RSSB offered £100k for feasibility studies that came out of ideas formulated by workshop participants. These were peer-reviewed and three projects plus one iCASE studentship, co-funded with EPSRC, were selected to be funded by the evaluation panel:

  •  Economic incentives for innovation:  A comparative study of the rail and aviation industries (University of Leeds, University of Loughborough, Imperial College London)
  • Commonality And Standardisation of Processes for cost-Effective Rolling stock (Newcastle University, Imperial College London, London Underground, TATA Steel, Scotrail (First Group). Alstom)
  • Design for control of railway vehicles and its business case impact (Loughborough University, Salford University)
  • Enabling the Development of Lightweight Railway Bogies Through the Use of Novel Technologies to Control Fatigue Life ( University of Huddersfield) – the iCASE studentship


More information

All the abstracts for the feasibility studies and the presentations from the event can be found on SPARK.


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