Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


Railway industry invests considerable resources to manage low adhesion caused by the build-up leaves, despite these efforts, adhesion issues still have a significant safety and financial impact on the industry and society. The current process of treating railheads to resolve the issue has less than 20% efficiency. The treatment plan is based on a set of assumptions and operator's experience, but actual adhesion enhancement levels are not considered as they are unknown.
Low adhesion is estimated to cost the UK industry £345m per annum and leads to costly delays as well as safety issues due to the loss of traction, potentially leading to uncontrolled condition and in the worst-case collisions. Rail Standard Safety Board (RSSB) has developed the ADHERE research programme to strategically tackle this challenge. However, the lack of fundamental understanding of the fundamental physics at the rail-wheel interface presents a barrier to progress.
The rail-wheel interface is a multi-scale, multi-phase problem which has a highly transitory condition and it is exposed to open operating environments that can produce a variety of contaminations. Understanding the physical and chemical interactions at the interface is challenging, but it is essential and the only route to tackle the problem. In this project, a predictive computational model to simulate adhesion enhancement using sand particles in the rail-wheel interface will be a deliverable. This tool will be calibrated using experimental data at the micro-scale and validated using a full-scale rail-wheel set-up in collaboration with Prof Roger Lewis at the University of Sheffield. Running computational parametric simulations will lead to underscoring the crucial role of particle characteristics to assess the current assumptions stated in the RSSB standard catalogue GMRT2461. I hypothesise that tailoring particle characteristics (such as shape) will enhance 'self-steering' and 'self-entraining' of particles in rail-wheel interface, therefore it reduces particle ejections and increases efficiency. The outcomes of this project will be disseminated to stakeholders at an event hosted by RSSB, in addition to usual academic dissemination routes, i.e. conferences and journals.

The main impact of this research work will be:
In the short term: developing an understanding of the role of particle characteristics in adhesion enhancement; engagement with public and industry.
In the mid-term: informing planning and decision-making models, design engineers and consultants; amendment of standard.
In the long term: increased network capacity, reduced carbon, lower costs and improved customer satisfaction.


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