RSSB funds rail adhesion project
The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) is funding a new project which aims to improve train braking and to increase capacity and reliability of the rail network.
Led by Alstom Transport UK, the research consortium includes TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) and the University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research. It aims to develop a prototype braking system combining and controlling conventional friction braking with electro-magnetic brakes. Such a system could reduce the need for autumn timetables by reducing the stopping distance required in poor conditions.
While there are potential capacity benefits, the White Paper on Predictable and Optimised Braking also points out that energy demand during braking and traction movements could increase, as could track wear due to increased vertical loads during braking. It adds that infrastructure upgrades might be needed for areas with high train frequency, and that there could be electromagnetic compatibility issues with lineside infrastructure.
Should widespread deployment of the concept take place, there would also be a need for changes in track access charges, incentives to encourage train operators to use the extra capacity created, and alterations to safety regulations both for the braking system and infrastructure.
However, the benefit-to-cost ratio is estimated at 4.35 over a 20-year period: emissions could be reduced, planning headways will not need to be increased during low adhesion conditions, signal section lengths could be reduced, and the number of Signals Passed at Danger could fall.
The first stage will engage with stakeholders to establish requirements, the second will finalise the technical concept together with a supporting business case, The final stage will integrate technical and business case models, develop ‘advanced technical functionalities’ and demonstrate a prototype electromagnetic braking control system.
Paul Allen of the University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research cited the 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 overcrowded railways.”