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March 9, 2016

Loughborough University’s rail track switch technology enters next phase of development

Loughborough University's new railway track switch technology has entered the next phase of development and secured industrial backing.

By Umesh Ellichipuram

Loughborough University’s new railway track switch technology has entered the next phase of development and secured industrial backing.

Repoint is a reliable points concept that is claimed to have broken 200 years of tradition to offer design change, which is expected to boost reliability, cut down maintenance costs and bolster capacity on the railways.

University engineers developed the concept after receiving inputs from industry experts. The project was undertaken for more than two years and it received funding from UK rail safety body RSSB.

It will see a full-scale prototype track switch being developed and deployed.

UsING safety concepts derived from the aerospace and the nuclear industries, Repoint allows redundant, fail-safe actuation and locking of track switches. It means a failure of a single actuator element will not lead to failure of the complete switch, enabling trains to continue until maintenance is feasible.

"Bringing Repoint a step closer to operation is a fantastic achievement with the potential to fix a 200-year-old problem on rail networks around the world."

With an increase in the railway traffic density across the rail network, scheduling maintenance of tracks has become more difficult.

Repoint technology, which is being developed alongside RSSB, London Underground, could serve as an alternative solution.

The Repoint project is led by professor Roger Dixon, senior project engineer Sam Bemment, professor Roger Goodall, and Dr Chris Ward, who are part of the Control Systems Research Group in the University’s Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering.

Dixon said: "Bringing Repoint a step closer to operation is a fantastic achievement with the potential to fix a 200-year-old problem on rail networks around the world.

"Great Britain’s rail network, in particular, is under pressure to provide increased capacity and reliability at a reduced cost.

"With the support of RSSB, we can make track switch failures a thing of the past by introducing a cost-effective alternative, which has not been seen before."

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