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Increased rainfall and faster trains: ensuring future railway tracks remain stable in our changing climate


Project Description

Climate change is having an unprecedented impact on the world’s railway lines due to increased rainfall. This is particularly important for the rail industry because many rail embankments are 5 times more permeable than highway embankments. This is because their construction pre-dated modern soil compaction methods. Currently it is possible to assess earthwork stability in the presence of changing water levels while ignoring the effect of train loading. However, train passages induce significant energy into track-earthwork structures, often resulting high strain levels. This is a safety concern because this energy can increase the risk of collapse, at the exact moment when the train is directly above the at-risk track section. Therefore the railway industry needs a method to assess the effect of predicted precipitation trends on the tracks, in the presence of combined static and dynamic loading.


To achieve this, this project will combine the latest rainfall projections, estimated ground saturations and a cutting-edge railway track model, to determine the effect of saturation on dynamic track-earthwork behaviour during train passage. Therefore it will, for the first time, directly link climate change to railway infrastructure design. To do so, high-resolution climate model simulations of the future climate and the latest lower resolution multi-model ensembles, will be combined with an existing 3D railway track-earthworks model. The hybrid model will be able to approximate the increase in saturation of sections of the UK’s rail earthworks, and using this data, determine the increased risk of track failure during train passage. The project is timely because of the huge global investment in both climate change and railways.

Funding Notes

This is a 3 years scholarship funded by the University of Leeds through the Priestley International Centre for Climate. The award will provide tuition fees (£4,500 for 2019/20), tax-free stipend at the UK research council rate (£15,009 for 2019/20), and a research training and support grant of £750 per annum

How good is research at University of Leeds in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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