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CDT-SIS-133: A Whole Life Carbon Model for Railway Track System Interventions

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  • Full or part time
    Dr S Blainey
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

The Track to the Future Research Challenges are linked by work to integrate their findings into a whole-life model of the technical performance, economic and environmental costs and benefits of the range of the track interventions and modifications developed. Embedded and operational carbon emissions linked to transport infrastructure (such as railway track) can form a substantial proportion of the total emissions from transport operations using such infrastructure. There is a pressing need to reduce transport-related emissions in order to meet the UK’s future emission targets. Changes in emissions levels therefore have the potential, when valued in monetary terms, to make a significant contribution to the costs and/or benefits resulting from modifications to railway track systems.

This project will develop a carbon emissions model for railway track systems, covering the whole life of infrastructure from the extraction, manufacture and transportation of materials, through track construction and maintenance, to end of life disposal and re-use. The model will bring together data from a range of sources, such as Network Rail asset lifecycle profile data, carbon inventories and existing carbon costing tools. It will be capable of modelling the impacts of a wide range of track system interventions, such as alterations to rail fastenings and dampers, new sleeper shapes, and geotextile, geogrid and fibre ballast reinforcements. It should therefore be able to model the impact of the full range of engineering solutions developed during Track to the Future, covering plain track, transition zones, and switches and crossings, and will draw on the results from performance modelling carried out using tools such as the Vehicle Track Interaction Strategic Model (VTISM) used by Network Rail. The model should also have a high degree of spatial transferability, achieved using a GIS interface, which will allow it to be used to generate results for any part of the British rail network.

The ’Whole Life Carbon Model for Railway Track System Interventions’ project is part TRACK TO THE FUTURE (T2F) a major five-year, £8M research programme, funded by EPSRC, industry and the Universities of Southampton, Birmingham, Huddersfield and Nottingham. Its aim and vision is to support the development of railway track systems that are efficient in terms of embodied carbon, materials use and cost; robust in requiring little maintenance; and unintrusive in producing little noise. It will address this aim through three interlinked Research Challenges RC.

TRACK4LIFE (RC1): low-maintenance, long-life track systems with optimised material use, through
• developing, and demonstrating the effectiveness of, new track forms or components and promising interventions e.g. under-sleeper pads and random fibre ballast reinforcement (1A)
• developing an understanding of the relationships between the key measurable parameters of track stiffness and track settlement, and the key performance parameter of geometrical standard deviation, taking into account the interactions with rail geometry and vehicle dynamics (1B), and
• extending the life of ballast by reducing or eliminating the factors leading to its degradation, assessing the feasibility of design for the degraded state and facilitating re-use rather than downcycling or disposal (1C).

DESIGNER CROSSINGS AND TRANSITIONS (RC2): crossings and transitions that optimise the behaviour of the vehicles traversing them, thereby minimising damage. This will be achieved by developing new understandings of the highly complex interactions between switch and crossing geometry, sub-base support, wheel profile and vehicle dynamics, including the effects of varying the support stiffness through the crossing or transition; and combining them with the potential of modern manufacturing methods to provide a tuned variation in geometry and materials properties.

NOISE-LESS TRACK (RC3): an integrated approach to designing a low-noise, low-vibration track consistent with reduced whole life costs and maintenance needs. Track is the main source of railway rolling noise and has a key role in vibration transmission into the ground. Noise is increasingly cited as the main objection to the expansion, reopening or construction of railways. However, design changes are usually driven by other concerns with the implications for noise and vibration considered as secondary effects.

Applications for this PhD research project are accepted on a rolling basis and we therefore advise you to apply early if you are interested. To make your application please go to:

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Simon Blainey, Transportation Research Group, Email: [email protected], Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2834.

This project is being run in participation with the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Infrastructure Systems ( For details of our 4 Year PhD programme and further projects, please see

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