Technology Focus series: Automatic Gauge Changing Systems and Network Versatility

Automatic Gauge Changing Systems (AGCS) allow rolling stock to travel across a break of gauge where two railway networks with differing track gauges meet. The system automatically changes the gauge of the wheel sets on the axle by passing through a gauge-changing facility called a gauge changer, which is built within the infrastructure at the gauge change. This allows rolling stock to travel internationally via various gauge routes without load transhipment or changes of wheel axle.

AGCS could increase the number of rolling stock that can be used on the UK tracks, aiding in delivering a key RTS capability of having flexible freight and low-cost rail solutions. Although there would be an upfront investment of updating infrastructure and implementing AGCS, it will reduce operational time and costs as load transhipment and changing of wheel axles will no longer be needed. This would also mean that there will be minimal disruption to train services as it allows both freight and passenger trains to seamlessly cross gauge tracks e.g. train from UK into Germany without any stops or interchanges. Furthermore, AGCS would reduce emissions as it optimises energy use. As there is no need to bring rolling stock to a halt, inertia is conserved, therefore the large initial energy requirement to get a train moving is reduced. AGCS may have an implication for increasing the interest of foreign investors in UK rail, and/or of UK rail companies in foreign markets.

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