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Large Scale Development of New High Speed Rail Track Structures

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  • Full or part time
    Prof P Woodward
    Dr David Connolly
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Project Overview
The high speed rail industry is growing rapidly, however further increases in speed are prohibited by traditional railway track design. To facilitate further advancements in the industry, new track designs with higher performance must be developed. Therefore Heriot Watt University has constructed two of the largest track development facilities in the world. These facilities will be used to investigate traditional track behaviour at higher speed and develop exciting new track designs and components. The results will help shape the future of the global, multi-million dollar high speed rail industry.

Funding notes:
1. Fully funded
2. Funding duration: 36 Months (3 years)
3. Eligibility: International/All
4. Application deadline: 29th February 2015
5. Project start: 3/10/2016
6. Apply: http://www.hw.ac.uk/student-life/how-to-apply/postgraduate.htm

Project Description
A Japanese high speed train recently set a new world speed record of 603 km/h, similar to that of a Boeing 737 (750 km/h). Furthermore, the UK’s new high speed line (HS2) will be the fastest operational railway line in the world and one of the largest infrastructure construction projects in Europe. These increased train speeds mean that high speed rail is now superseding air travel in many parts of the world.

Despite this, a challenge with travelling at very high speeds is that track vibrations grow exponentially which can cause the train, track and soil to shake. This may increase the risk of train issues and causes large increases in track operational costs. These risks increase over time, however until recently, it has been very difficult to investigate medium and long term behaviour because of unrealistic testing costs/time.

As a solution, Heriot Watt recently developed two of the largest physical railway laboratory testing facilities in the world – a full-scale accelerated testing rig, and a large scale true-triaxial testing rig. These facilities can be used together to simulate the effect of a lifetimes worth of high speed train passages in a matter of days. Thus, they can be used to investigating long-term track behaviour and to develop new track technologies. The rigs are very new and as such the student will be uniquely positioned to make new, cutting edge discoveries.

Therefore, this project provides a unique opportunity for an exceptional PhD student to help shape the future of the global, multi-million dollar high speed rail industry. Firstly, investigations will undertaken to better understand the behaviour of traditional railway tracks during train passage. Next, these findings will be used to test a variety of new track types and components.

The project is open to holders of numerically related degrees (e.g. Engineering, Maths, Physics…etc), with a first or upper second class honours (or non-UK equivalent). The candidate will also be able to demonstrate: attention to detail, a positive attitude and ideally have experience with physical testing. Some numerical modelling experience would also be advantageous.

Applications will be ranked. Therefore it is vital that in your application/CV, you CLEARLY state all potential indicators of esteem (e.g. academic qualifications, prizes, awards, scholarships, publications, English ability…etc). Also, your references may be ranked, so where possible, please obtain references from persons of maximum seniority (e.g. Full Professor where possible). References must also be electronically/physically signed and sent via PDF. To prevent confusion, it is also advisable to only apply for one PhD project within Heriot Watt’s institute for Infrastructure and Environment.

1. Prof. Peter K Woodward
Akins Professor of High Speed Rail
Director of ‘Infrastructure and Environment’ Research Institute
2. Dr. David P Connolly

News stories and website related to this project


How good is research at Heriot-Watt University in General Engineering?
(joint submission with University of Edinburgh)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 108.84

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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