Redundantly Engineered POINTs (REPOINT) For Enhanced Reliability And Capacity Of Railway Track Switching

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Electronic, Electrical & Systems Enginee


Points on railway networks enable different routes through the network to be achieved, thereby allowing rail-transport links between many different destinations. However, they are critical parts of the network as a points failure often leads to delays, re-routing and cancellations. Even when fully operational they represent an important capacity constraint because route setting makes assumptions about what would happen in the event of points failure(s) in order to ensure safety.This project will investigate whether so called redundancy approaches that are used in other safety critical situations (like aircraft) can be applied to points for track switching. If successful this will fundamentally change the nature of a junction to comprise multiple sets of points rather than just one single set. The result is that the junction will have some built in redundancy to faults which means higher reliability of the junction and potentially improved capacity. The capacity improvement will come in part from the reliability improvement and in part due to changes in the operating rules of the railway that become possible when the points are redesigned to be more reliable.

Planned Impact

The research hypothesis is: A fundamental re-think of railway track switching would ease some of the current route-setting constraints to provide higher capacity, and provide a significant reduction in operational unreliability arising from failures in switches. The potential impact from the project is extensive, not least because it can play a key part in helping the UK Rail industry to meet its future aims of significantly enhancing reliability and increasing capacity through network nodes. In terms of timescales it must be appreciated that the redundancy approach has not been previously considered for railway switches. By the close of the project the technology should be around TRL 2-3 and, provided the steps to follow up the research are successful, the benefits should begin to be available to industry in the medium term as the TRLs are increased. In the longer term the benefits of the uptake of the proposed new technology will begin to have an impact on government and society as the improved reliability and capacity improvements provide improved access to rail travel and to goods delivered by rail. These will both provide benefits to the environment, as part of a sustainable transport policy for the UK. Beyond the traditional dissemination methods of conferences and academic journals a number of key activities are planned to maximise impact. These are summarised below: The outcomes of the research will be disseminated to researchers via high quality international journals and conferences. In addition to this, one or two articles will be aimed at journals more popular with industrialists e.g. IET's Engineering and Technology and IMechE's Professional Engineering magazines. Finally, opportunities to present the results at relevant UK Railway Events will be actively sought. Indeed it is anticipated that there will be good opportunities to do this in a structured way as part of the EPSRC/DfT/RSSB strategic partnership. These steps will bring the research and potential benefits to the attention of a wide range of appropriate rail-industry users/manufacturers. Finally, at the conclusion of the project potential routes for exploitation will be identified with both RWA Rail Ltd and Network Rail. It is anticipated that, due to the TRL levels and the necessary industrial engagement required to progress through to 6,7,8, it may be most appropriate to consider a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP - an PDRA working in industry) as a follow-up activity to ensure maximum impact. Regarding Intellectual Property, it is standard practice for the university to negotiate collaboration agreements for research projects having industrial partners. Any patentable outcomes from the work will be identified by the investigators, discussed with the collaborators and protected in the most appropriate manner (with help from the University's Enterprise Office).


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Bemment S (2017) Improving the reliability and availability of railway track switching by analysing historical failure data and introducing functionally redundant subsystems in Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit

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Bemment S (2016) Rethinking rail track switches for fault tolerance and enhanced performance in Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit

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Bezin Y (2019) Dynamic analysis and performance of a repoint track switch in Vehicle System Dynamics

Description The project generated a number of new concepts for track switches. One of these was selected for further evaluation. By removing a critical failure mode present in current technology and introducing a novel locking mechanism, we can facilitate actuator redundancy and re-writing of train control rules. This leads to improved system reliability and increased capacity.
This was verified using two case studies:
A turnout for a typical junction on HS2 (as proposed) and Waterloo station throat.
Exploitation Route Once developed, there is massive potential for use of this new switch in railways within the UK and around the world. This is being pursued as part of the follow-on project mentioned in the impact section. REPOINT III has now been funded by the RSSB (£1.5M). This allows further development of the concept to beyond lab scale demonstration to in the rail environment with a full switch (hence toward TRL6/7).
Sectors Transport

Description The findings led directly to a follow on project to develop a new track switch. This was funded by We made good progress on that, achieved patents in UK (with patents in progress in several international territories. At time of writing (Jan 2018), a concept demonstrator has been build in the lab at Loughborough Uni and (with further RSSB funding) we are designing and building a full scale switch which will be tested in a rail environment. We are engaged with London Underground and Network Rail plus talking to a This activity should take the research concept to TRL 6/7. In a separate vane, this projects outcomes have led to us being involved (successfully) in H2020 and Shift2Rail calls.
Sector Transport
Description REPOINT II
Amount £356,000 (GBP)
Organisation Rail Safety and Standards Board 
Department FutureRailway
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2013 
End 10/2014
Description REPOINT II - Demonstrator and Business Case
Amount £182,296 (GBP)
Organisation Loughborough University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2014 
End 09/2015
Description RSSB Innovation Funding
Amount £1,383,984 (GBP)
Organisation Rail Safety and Standards Board 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2016 
End 09/2018
Description Shift2Rail
Amount £4,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 09/2016 
End 10/2019
Description Collaboration with RRUKA 
Organisation Rail Research UK Association (RRUKA)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We are group members and have input to the railway technical strategy and to bid for research funds through this network.
Collaborator Contribution RRUKA provides a gateway to industry
Impact Paper at RRUKA Conference Academic Response to the RTS2
Start Year 2011
Description RSSB 
Organisation Rail Safety and Standards Board
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Collaborating to Deliver a REPOINT proto-type switch
Collaborator Contribution RSSB - funding and oversight of programme. TfL - "Customer" consulancy and test-site
Impact Grant awarded to facilitate the work
Start Year 2016
Title Railway Points 
Description Railway points 10, based on a stub switch design, comprise pairs of parallel static stock rails 12, 14, and a pair of parallel switch rails 16 movable between first and second positions aligning respectively with stock rail pairs 12, 14. At least one switch rail 16 cooperates with a stock rail 12, 14 when switch rails 16 are in the first and second positions, with a mating profile 50 aligning a switch rail 16 and a stock rail 12, 14 and preventing a switch rail 16 from moving transversely relative to a stock rail 12, 14. Mating profile (50, Figure 4) may be a U-section or V-section; suitably a convex profile (26, Figure 4) extends upwardly from stock rails 12, 14 and a concave profile (32, Figure 4) is formed in switch rails 16, allowing switch rails 16 to move vertically to engage stock rails 12, 14. Switch rails 16 and stock rails 12, 14 may taper, forming a mitred connection allowing movement between them. 
IP Reference GB2516706 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2015
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact Award of a grant to develop the concept to TRL 7.
Title Railway points operating apparatus 
Description A railway points operator 22 is particularly suitable for operating railway points 10 comprising pairs of parallel, static stock rails (12, 14, Figure 1) and a pair of switch rails 16 movable between first and second positions to select a first or second route defined respectively by the stock rail pairs, and comprises an actuator 35 and a lock 56. Actuator 35, preferably driven by an electric motor 38, moves switch rails 16 transversely and vertically about a preferably semi-circular arc between the first and second positions to raise and lower switch rails 16 relative to the stock rails during transverse movement. Lock 56 prevents transverse horizontal movement of the switch rails 16 from the first and second positions. Switch rails 16 may be mounted on an upper surface of a support member 26 having a plurality of transversely spaced semi-circular recesses 32 on a lower surface. 
IP Reference GB2516707 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2015
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact A significant project with Industry to take the technology to TRL 7. (Demo in a railway environment).
Description Web Page Publicity 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact

Visits to our lab demonstrator from a number of industrial switch manufacturers (E.g. Progress Rail, Siemens).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014