Image from the testing

Developing the freight train of the future

The University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research (IRR) is a research centre in the field of railway engineering and risk.

Members of the Institute together with partners from across Europe have recently completed the EU funded project: SUSTRAIL. The main aim of this project was to support the European Commission in its target to shift 30% of road freight over 300km to other modes of transport such as rail or water.

The SUSTRAIL project was the winner of the Best Original Design category at the Rail Exec ‘Most Interesting’ Awards in November 2015.

Improving performance and reducing environmental impact

One of the key objectives of the SUSTRAIL project was to develop a prototype freight train of the future. The work started by identifying the key areas where recent and imminent developments could lead to improved performance of railway vehicles resulting in: reduced system maintenance and operating costs for vehicle and track, reduced environmental impact, greater sustainability and efficiency.

The SUSTRAIL Freight Bogie

The University of Huddersfield led the development of a freight vehicle bogie designed to allow higher running speed and lower track forces. Working with 12 other international industry and academic partners the SUSTRAIL freight bogie was designed to include a number of significant innovations in the running gear, wheelsets, braking system, bogie structure and the adoption of condition monitoring.

Most of the innovations selected are based on proven technology which reduces the commercial and operational risks and increases the potential reliability and overall chances of success.

Following extensive market research and analysis an outline performance specification was set for the vehicle. As a result of initial computer simulations it was decided that additional inter-axle linkages would be needed so further work was carried out which demonstrated that lateral stiffness between the wheelsets was required to provide stable running at the required design speed.

In order to meet the higher speed requirements the SUSTRAIL vehicle has an advanced electronic braking system which provides brake control and wheel-slide protection. This includes an independent and reliable power supply for the controller with axle generators and battery packs.

A new axle coating has also been used on the SUSTRAIL wheelsets. The coating provides improved corrosion resistance compared with traditional coatings and resists impact at a wide range of temperatures (-40°C to 150°C).

Innovative design

The SUSTRAIL vehicle is capable of running at up to 140km per hour with reduced track forces compared with conventional freight bogies. The main innovations are:

  • Novel running gear using components based on the widely used Y25 suspension which means that it can be maintained using established techniques, equipment and staff
  • Disk brakes and an electronic braking system to ensure safe operation at the higher operating speeds
  • Wheelsets with impact resistant coatings which will reduce inspection costs
  • On-board condition monitoring to allow longer maintenance intervals
  • Noise reduction elements to meet anticipated legislation
  • Modern lightweight structural design.

The design of the SUSTRAIL freight bogie has been patented and a prototype has been manufactured and is currently being tested.

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