Melton Mowbray test track

UK: Research to improve the reliability of current and future electrification schemes has been undertaken by engineers from Sheffield University, supported by supplier Furrer+Frey and Network Rail.

A PhD undertaken by Sam Hayes examined the effects of wind, train speed and wire gradient, with the aim of reducing the need for extensive bridge reconstruction which has contributed towards increasing the cost of electrification projects.

The performance of the wires was recorded using both large scale wind tunnels and computational fluid dynamics to create a digital twin of the wiring geometry. This was then validated with real world testing at Network Rail’s Melton Rail Innovation & Development Centre.

The PhD undertaken by Özgün Sunar focused on improving the reliability of overhead line electrification equipment, particularly when short-circuits and arcing occur. Modelling and mechanical and electrical testing were used to better understand when maintenance is needed prior to a failure. The research also trialled the use of innovative conductor materials.

‘Engagement with Furrer+Frey has been really great in funding and steering these research projects’, said Professor David Fletcher, head of the research group. ‘Their expertise has ensured the research stayed focused on industry needs, ensuring that the academic input of our PhD students will have a real impact on the industry.’

‘Research and study are among the keys to making electrification cost efficient’, said Furrer+Frey director Noel Dolphin. ‘However, as the Railway Industry Association’s Electrification Cost Challenge Report has shown, we need to remember that implementing a rolling programme of electrification would have the biggest impact on costs.’