The University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research (IRR) in the UK has been tasked with developing new switches, crossings and track systems, as part of the Shift2Rail initiative.
The six-year Shift2Rail programme aims to boost the capacity of Europe’s railway network to cope with soaring demand, increase the reliability and quality of rail services, and make big reductions in costs.
The European Union is supporting the project with €450m worth of funds.
The initiative includes three research projects. Roll2Rail focuses on rolling stock, IT2Rail deals with information technology, and In2Rail investigates track and infrastructure.
IRR is one of 55 partners taking part in the In2Rail programme, which will be led by the UK’s Network Rail and Swedish railway administrator Trafikverket.
The university’s researchers will help develop new technologies such as ‘self-correcting’, maintenance-free tracks and new switches and crossings.
IRR head of research Dr Yann Bezin said that the team would effectively be starting with a blank sheet of paper, as if railways were a completely new concept, without their long history.
"We will be trying to do something radically different and eliminate as much as possible the failure modes that are associated with the existing system," he said.
IRR said it has discussed with its partners over new rail principles that completely avoid damage-prone switch rails. The potential for smart tracks embedded with sensors and mechatronics will also be under investigation.
Image: The university team is part of the In2Rail programme that investigates novel track and infrastructure systems. Photo: courtesy of Tiverylucky via freedigitalphotos.net.