Train brake simulation tool wins award

| Transport

Simulation tool helps predict train braking performance in low adhesion conditions

Railway research on train braking performance in low adhesion conditions win an IMechE award for the University of Huddersfield

A research paper describing a simulation tool designed by engineers at the University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research (IRR) that can help train operators, maintainers and integrators optimise the braking performance of their trains has been conferred a prestigious prize by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

The paper entitled “Modelling and simulation of the train brake system in low adhesion conditions” has been awarded the IMechE’s “T A Stewart-Dyer Prize/ Frederick Harvey Trevithick Prize”.

Written by the University’s Dr Hamid Alturbeh, Julian Stow and Professor Gareth Tucker, with the assistance of Alan Lawton from the Rail Delivery Group, the research was funded under the University’s strategic partnership with the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB).

Awarded for the best paper on the subject of railway engineering, the paper describes the methodology behind the “Low Adhesion Braking Dynamic Optimisation for Rolling Stock” (LABRADOR) simulation tool, and how it can predict the train brake system performance.

The findings of the LABRADOR tool can support decision-making in the design and optimisation of the braking system including wheel slide protection, sanders and the blending and control of friction and dynamic brakes in low adhesion conditions.

Leaves on the line

Low adhesion is a major problem for the UK’s railway industry, especially during Autumn when leaves are falling on the track can be the cause of costly delays amounting to approximately £80 million per year.

“There are ten million trees around the railway line in the UK which leads to thousands of tonnes of leaves that get stuck on the track and this makes the track very slippery,” said Dr Alturbeh.

“This means trains must run at a reduced speed, accelerate slower and brake earlier. A build-up of leaves can also make it harder for signallers to detect a train’s location, which can then be the cause of further delays,” he added.

What makes the LABRADOR train braking model unique, explained Dr Alturbeh, is the way the tool has been configured to preserve the modularity of the various sub-systems within the braking system. This allows the model to be extended to represent longer trains and also to model the various brake system architectures present in older, contemporary and future rolling stock.

“LABRADOR allows the study of specific brake control features such as ‘Wheel Slide Protection System’ strategies, sanding effectiveness, dynamic brake utilisation, traction performance and more. This understanding will benefit train operators, maintainers and integrators by helping them optimise the braking performance of their trains,” said Dr Alturbeh.

Railway Research Centre

The Institute of Railway Research (IRR) within the University’s School of Computing and Engineering is a world-leading centre in the field of railway engineering and safety and in 2018 became a UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) Centre of Excellence in Rolling Stock.

The IRR’s research has helped to improve knowledge of the way in which railway vehicles interact with the track, including key performance aspects such as suspension performance, wheel-rail contact, traction and braking.

In collaboration with industry and academic partners, this has led to a number of new tools and techniques which are now used to predict deterioration of railway wheels and rails, to optimise the vehicle track interface, to increase safety and reliability levels, reduce cost and improve performance of the railway system.

Director of the IRR, Professor Simon Iwnicki, applauded the team on their latest achievement, explaining that this is at least the fourth time in the last few years that members of the IRR have won a prestigious IMechE prize.

“Not only is this a clear recognition of the excellent work being carried out at the Institute, but it also highlights the quality of the research papers being published by our members,” he concludes.

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