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Huddersfield researchers guide the future of cheaper, lighter trains

22 October 2012

Researchers at the University of Huddersfield are to shape the future of train design with a project that will help to make trains cheaper and lighter.

The research initially aims to establish whether lighter bogies could be developed for use on passenger trains.  Bogies are the term given to the heavy cast or welded steel frame which holds the vehicle’s wheels and suspension (pictured).

They have to absorb the large forces transmitted between the track and vehicle body, so when designing lighter bogies, the key challenge will be to ensure they can withstand these forces over long design lives without fatigue failure.

Assistant Director of the Institute of Railway Research Julian Stow explains: “Developing lighter components offers the possibility of reducing the wear and tear which trains impose on the track as well as reducing the energy which the train consumes”.

This is important, he continues; “because passenger trains are designed to have a life of more than 30 years – over their whole life the cost savings from using lighter components can be considerable”.

Reducing bogie frame weight is going to require a new approach to design and will include considering whether bogie frames should be replaced during routine overhauls, whether they could be made lighter if the track was smoother and even whether they could monitor their own fatigue life says Railway Engineering Professor Simon Iwnicki: “We will be looking at new materials and different types of suspension – nothing can be ruled out at this stage”.

The three year project is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council together with industry partners RSSB (a not-for-profit company owned and funded by major stakeholders in the railway industry) through an ‘Industrial CASE (iCASE)’ award.

The work was inspired by a seminar organised by the Rail research UK Association in association with Association of Train Operating Companies in which academics and senior rail industry leaders discussed ways of developing a future ‘half cost’ train. 

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