❱❱ The “Harold” test rig at the IRR has a high capacity for testing new developments in rolling stock technology and wheel adhesion, below; UK innovation as part of UKRRIN will help to meet the European Commission objectives for increased rail freight transport by 2030, bottom; Huddersfield University’s IRR is built on the foundation of the city’s industrial heritage, inset


ith a heritage in railway engineering that stretches right back to the pioneering days of Trevithick and Stephenson at the start of the 19th century, the UK is still pushing the boundaries of innovation at a time when cost, efficiency and low emissions are

becoming increasingly significant. When British Railways Engineering (BRE) collapsed, the

industry privatised and the great engineering centres transformed into retail parks and heritage centres, it looked like the UK’s position in the industry had been lost forever. However, with a shift in emphasis and both public and private funding, there has been a resurgence of the kind of innovation that had previously characterised UK railway engineering.

ACADEMIC RESEARCH According to Professor Simon Iwnicki, director of the Institute of Railway Research (IRR), BRE had been engaged in intense levels of research but had kept it all to itself, without the involvement of academia. As a result, with privatisation came an associated steep decline in both research and innovation. “With funding from the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical

Sciences Research Council), Rail Research UK was set up and the Advanced Railway Research Centre began in Sheffield,” says Iwnicki. “This initial funding was also provided to six other universities, including the IRR, which was at that time based in Manchester.” Once the initial round of funding was complete, the strategy

was re-examined and it was concluded that there needed to be a network of innovation centred around a hub through which potential users of the innovation centres could go and through which the centres could find a route to new markets. The result was the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network

(UKRRIN) hub with three academic centres of excellence and a fourth testing centre for public funded organisations like Network Rail and Transport for London (TfL). The academic centres focus on infrastructure at Southampton, digital systems at Birmingham and rolling stock at Huddersfield.

THE ADHESION RIDDLE One of the areas of expertise that came with the IRR from Manchester during its relocation was the wheel to rail interface, an area of study that Professor Iwnicki and the IRR are engaged in. This is an important aspect of rolling stock design and constributes to the four Cs that are at the core of the institute’s goals – carbon, customer, cost and capacity. As Iwnicki explains, the adhesion riddle centres around the

very small contact patch between the wheel and the rail. Pressures are intense and the condition and geometry of the interface affect traction, braking, fatigue, squeal, passenger comfort and economy. A look around the laboratories at the IRR reveals an array of

test equipment relating to wheels, suspension and bogies (the articulating frame into which the wheels, axles and suspension are mounted). Such equipment includes rolling roads, a six-axis motion platform, vibration tables and fixtures for measuring forces and roll-out.

LIGHTWEIGHTING One of the important projects the researchers at Huddersfield is working on is lightweighting and moving away from the norm of putting rolling stock on bogies, preferring instead to investigate alternatives that involve the use of more active and dynamic components that will help to reduce weight without compromising load bearing characteristics or introducing undesirable effects, like rail squeal or discomfort.

June 2019 /// Testing & Test Houses /// 11

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