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Research and Innovation Quarterly Update - July 2017

Research and innovation in action

​RSSB wins environment award

ElevArch bridge reconstruction

RSSB wins environment award The ElevArch bridge raising system, funded by RSSB, won the environment award at the Railway Industry Innovation Awards held in June. The arch jacking trial saw the bridge arch raised 900mm over a six-hour period before being lowered to 450mm above the original position, with the gap in the abutment filled to restore permanent support. The ElevArch provides an alternative to the demolition of overbridges when electrification or larger rolling stock needs to be accommodated on the railway, delivering a cost-effective alternative for Network Rail.

Emergency window repair

Virgin Trains West Coast have successfully implemented findings from an RSSB research project which
identified and tested emergency repair films and delivered data on the physical performance of train
bodyside windows.

The findings also include a procedure for the application of emergency window repair film to windows broken in service, in both wet and dry conditions. This enables better management of broken bodyside windows in service allowing operational delays to be reduced, without compromising safety.

Virgin Trains have updated their processes for class 390 and 221 fleets, estimating annual saving of around £50,000 in reduced delays.

Economic Tyre Turning

Wheel reprofiling

Joint research in partnership with the University of Huddersfield has discovered a new approach to wheelset maintenance which can reduce costs by up to 4.7%. The research found that by turning the wheels with a thinner flange on the last turning cycle, a process now termed Economic Tyre Turning (ETT), cost savings can be achieved whilst not adversely affecting safety or ride quality.

Virgin Trains and Alstom have now successfully trialled ETT on Class 444 and Class 390 trains. A guidance document has been produced showing how it can be implemented for a range of profiles and provides train operators with information on how to construct thin flange wheel profiles on modern wheel lathes.

Since I was presented with the benefits of Economic Tyre Turning I have engaged with colleagues at Alstom to undertake a trial operation of this profile. Throughout the trial, I always found the research team highly competent, professional and supportive. I am also delighted to see that the work has now been incorporated in the latest Draft Railway Group Standard (GM/RT2766).

Andrew James, Engineering Manager, Virgin Trains

Ready for industry use

Reducing train disruption by standardising couplers

Data indicates that there is only a 50% chance of the nearest locomotive having a compatible coupler - a number that drops to 20% in some parts of the country. Hence savings of up to £2.5m a year by the Standardisation of Coupling Arrangement could be achieved. The research recommends rolling stock owners should ensure trains travelling at less than 250km/h use couplers that are compatible with
the Scharfenberg Type 12 and the compatible Voith 136 to reduce the disruption associated with broken
down trains. This would ensure that the nearest locomotives can remove broken down trains quickly and efficiently, regardless of the operator, allowing the railway to continue providing its service to passengers and freight.

Next steps:

RSSB is interested in engaging with train operators who currently have an opportunity to implement findings from this research.

Adaptable rail carriage

Adaptable carrigae - seat stowed

An innovative system to stow seats within passenger train carriages to create space for high value freight during off-peak services has been designed with funding from RSSB.

The new seating system enables train operating companies to configure specific carriages to convert between the two. It is fully automated and takes under three minutes to complete, meaning the 20 rows of seats in a typical passenger carriage can be compressed to create cargo space equivalent to the capacity of an articulated lorry.

The carriage is designed by 42 Technology, one of the winners of the Tomorrow’s Train Design Today

The approach could provide retailers and logistics companies with a faster, lower cost and more reliable way of getting time-sensitive deliveries into city centres during off peak hours.

Zane van Romunde, transport Sector Lead, 42 Technology

Next steps:

The demonstration of this engineering solution de-risks the technology and opens up new opportunities. Discussions with train operating and logistics companies are ongoing, further interest is welcomed please contact Zane van Romunde.

Automated inspection for rolling stock maintenance

Vehicle Underframe

An automated inspection system which monitors the underside of trains for faults has been designed
with part-funding from the RSSB Railway Operator Challenge Competition (ROCC).

VUES (Vehicle Underframe Examination System) uses a combination of cameras, non-visible wavelength light and computer vision algorithms to detect anomalies and monitor for dislodged or  damaged equipment and leaks. The equipment generates data trends and detects any anomalies including overheating components and changes in appearance. Any detected faults are reported electronically for maintenance teams to investigate.

Next steps:

The manufacturer, GOBOTIX, are looking to produce a low cost VUES demonstrator ready
for market. For inquiries and interest in the next stage of this work, contact Ben Davis.

Trains approaching red signals

RAATS tool interfaceA new on-line tool developed by RSSB and the University of Huddersfield will help lower train accident risk even further by using big data to reduce the chances of a train passing a red signal.

The ‘Red Aspect Approaches to Signals’ (RAATS) tool, allows rail operators to not only understand the overall red approach rate for the whole network, but to focus on individual signals which are most likely to be approached at red.

The tool uses data provided by Network Rail which covers 137 million situations of trains approaching signals, applying complex algorithms to identify where red approaches are happening. Results can be broken down by train type, day of the week or time of day and analysis can be carried out on both an individual signal and groups of signals (e.g. all signals on a route). Users can interrogate data within the tool or export it for further analysis.

This is a great tool that presents an excellent opportunity to use big data to not only manage risk, but also to improve industry performance, having implications on driver training, timetable planning and other performance related issues.

Daniel Mann, Rail Delivery Group

Next steps:

A beta version of the tool is now available for industry use via RSSB’s Rail Risk Portal External link .

Work is now underway to refine the tool linking it to live data feeds before it is formally launched later in the year.

Further research is underway building on this tool and will generate new insights on performance and timetable planning. For more information please contact:

In progress

Improving the platform train interface

Improving the Platform-train interface

Four projects, funded by RSSB and facilitated by RRUKA, to improve the safety and speed of  passengers boarding and alighting from trains are underway. They aim to explore novel ideas to reduce the number of incidents occuring at the platform/train interface (PTI), where statistically passengers are
most likely to incur harm during their journey, and to improve the speed of boarding and alighting which can be a significant constrain on capacity.

The projects are about:

  • Using real-time data to influence passenger positioning and boarding (University of Surrey and Loughborough University. Working with Rail Delivery Group and Network Rail).
  • Looking at passenger flow to optimise platform and train features (University of Sheffield. Working with Siemens, Virgin Trains and Transpennine Express).
  • Augmenting current CCTV technology available to personnel to improve interaction at the PTI
    (Lancaster University. Working with Network Rail, NTXX and Digital Rail Systems).
  • Investigating the feasibility of a kneeling train to reduce the gap between the train and the platform (Loughborough University. Working with Chiltern Railways, Virgin Trains West Coast, HS2 and Co Catalyst). 

Get involved

If you would like to know more about any of the projects, or would like to be directly involved, please get in touch at:

Variable rate sanders trials

The industry incurs approximately 350,000 minutes delay per year from adhesion problems which equates to an estimated cost of around £17.5M.

The enhanced sander configurations being tested have the potential to deliver improved braking in conditions of low adhesion, reducing delays and the risk of signals passed at danger.

The two train units required for the trials have now arrived on site and are being modified ready for testing to start in August and run over 10 weeks.

Still to come

Early results are expected in November with the final set of findings to be released in January 2018, in time for consideration and implementation in Autumn 2018.

Wheel motor technology

Wheel motor technology project

SET Ltd has collaborated with University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research to successfully demonstrate the tram wheel motor, supported by RSSB.

The wheel motor project is an innovative approach to rail traction and guidance using a combination of controlled independently driven wheels, guidance algorithms and high efficiency motors to deliver an effective solution to the challenges faced by modern tram systems. It is envisaged the new system will lower operating costs through reduced wear, lower maintenance and reduced energy consumption and noise.

Still to come

Following the successful demonstrator of the wheel motor for tram, the first production system is expected to be completed by 2020.

Work is currently being undertaken to explore main line rail application with support from Loughborough
University, Viva Rail and RSSB.

Get involved

Rail Industry Awards

Entries are open for the rail research and innovation implementation category, sponsored by RSSB, at the UK Rail Industry Awards 2018.

Over the years, RSSB in partnership with the rail industry has generated a wide-ranging portfolio of research and innovation outputs. The next challenge is to take these outputs to the next step and use them to improve the railway. This award is about recognising and celebrating the drive, ingenuity and successes of those who have accomplished implementation and realised benefits from the cross-industry research and innovation programmes managed by RSSB. The deadline for entries is
25 September 2017.

Further details are available at

Novel approaches to safety critical training

RSSB recently completed a knowledge search investigating the potential for virtual reality, augmented reality and gamification to improve training. Virtual and augmented reality technologies have already been applied successfully to training in other safety critical operations including aerospace operations and surgery.

The knowledge search highlighted the potential to improve the quality of the training and reduce costs. A new research project is being developed which will investigate specific scenarios where novel techniques can be used in safety critical training within the rail industry and establish potential benefits.

Get involved

We would like to hear from you if you are currently considering or have implemented novel approaches to safety critical training, please contact:

Improving operational decision making

The industry’s prescriptive safety culture may discourage frontline staff from acting without expressed
consent, limiting the potential for proactive situation management of minor operational incidents. This could result in incidents escalating, leading to delays across the network.

This research seeks to better understand the constraints on frontline staff and identify means of enabling more responsive decision making during specific situations.

Get involved

We are interested in finding out more about specific scenarios in which this approach would be useful to industry. If you have some suggestions or would like to be further involved in the research, please contact:

Suggest research

The research programme is driven by the rail industry’s needs. We receive and review hundreds of ideas each year. New research ideas are always welcome. Drop us an email and we will be in touch to discuss this further.

Request a knowledge search

Do you want to know if research has been done, or knowledge already exists? The Knowledge Services,
include horizon scanning activities, support the R&D programme and carry out knowledge searches for
RSSB members.



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