Funded by RSSB and led by train manufacturer, Alstom Transport UK Ltd, a research consortium comprising partners TRL and the University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research has been formed with a remit to develop a prototype braking system which combines and intelligently controls the benefits of conventional train braking systems with state-of-the-art electro-magnetic technology. This blended electro-magnetic braking system could, in the future, reduce the need for autumn timetables, and provide more frequent and reliable train services all year round.

With poor adhesion between railway tracks and train wheels, especially during the wetter autumn and winter months, stopping distances are increased and a driver’s ability to stop the train safely and precisely at signals and stations is compromised. With an inability to guarantee the required braking performance year-round on British railways, train operating companies are forced to run fewer trains at slower speeds, leaving passengers highly inconvenienced.

To address this perennial problem of degradation in the performance of our rail system, the project aims to enhance train braking and reduce costs for service providers by making braking predictable and optimised for all weather conditions. The consortium will initiate a programme of work from early desktop studies through to the development of the prototype software and hardware elements. If successful, further industry support will be sought for full-scale trials.

Technical lead and senior researcher for TRL, Dr Phil Martin, commented: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the consortium to achieve research outcomes which have the potential to disrupt the railway industry and enable a step-change in the braking performance of trains across Britain. It is our hope that, with this project, weather conditions will have a lesser impact on journeys and there will be fewer delays, improving rail transportation across the sector.”

Of the project, Claude Dubois, Alstom’s Engineering Director (UK&I) states, “As a consortium member with TRL and the University of Huddersfield, ALSTOM is pleased to participate in the Predictable and Optimised Braking working group which will deliver an innovative solution to train operating companies. This will greatly enhance braking performance in low adhesion condition, thus improving the capacity of the rail network.”

On behalf of the University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research, Dr Paul Allen cites the whole system benefits of the project, “through the provision of predictable and optimised braking, the project will help realise the industry’s vision of running trains closer together and hence critically increasing the capacity of our evermore over-crowded railways.”

The project will be delivered in three phases, with the first phase establishing the technical and business case requirements for the blended electro-magnetic braking system based on an in-depth consultation with railway industry stakeholders. It will then be designed for high-speed, inter-city and regional train services during phase two, with the cost-effectiveness of these optimised system designs verified through computer simulations. Finally, phase three will see the development and testing of the prototype system.

For more information on the project, download the white paper here.


Notes to editors:

About the funding

RSSB funded the work under the DfT sponsored Future Railway initiative through a wider call titled ‘Predictable and Optimised Braking’. A number of projects were funded, further details can be found on the RSSB website.



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