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Research into capacity at nodes on the rail network has relevance to road intersections, ports, stations and airports

While in the rail sector there is R&D activity within academia and the supply base, the Rail Safety & Standards Board (RSSB) is responsible for managing much of the R&D that addresses cross-industry issues.  In 2009, RSSB along with its primary research funder, the Department for Transport, formed a partnership with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to fund academic research related to the performance and sustainability of the railway system.  The first call issued under this arrangement was associated with boosting railway capacity; overcoming the constraints at stations and junctions (nodes) on the rail network.  The aim of the call was to see what could potentially be achieved, without being constrained by current practices and thinking.  The five projects which were successful and now well advanced are summarised below, but more information can be found on the RSSB website:

  • Overcoming Capacity Constraints - A Simulation integrated with Optimisation for Nodes (OCCASION) – led by Southampton University.
  • Challenging established rules for train control through a fault tolerance approach – led by the University of Salford.
  • Overcoming the railway capacity challenges without undermining rail network safety (SafeCap) – led by Newcastle University.
  • Redundantly Engineered POINTs (REPOINT) For Enhanced Reliability And Capacity Of Railway Track Switching – led by Loughborough University.
  • Dynamic Responsive Signal Control for Railway Junctions – led by University College London.

So is this research only relevant to the rail sector?

While there are obvious features to the railway which distinguish it from other modes of transport, there are similarities as well.  Just as trains have stations, so also do buses, aircraft their airports and boats their marinas.  Just as rail has junctions that join separate lines together, we also see the same on the road network with or without traffic lights. 

So while much of this research might seem specific to the rail sector, perhaps other sectors could learn from it and equally share their learning in this important area. 

Thoughts welcome.  Just click Add comment!

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