Centre of Excellence in Rolling Stock

Universities and industry working together to deliver the next generation of railway vehicles



The Centre of Excellence in Rolling stock aims to meet the current and future demands of the GB rail industry for research and innovation to support the next generation of railway vehicles. The Centre will link with other centres in the UKRRIN Network to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for all rolling stock development

The Centre will be integrated into the UKRRIN and will focus on the major themes of Reduced Whole Life Cost vehicles and Future Low Energy vehicles.

Overview of the Reduced Whole Life Cost theme

A major challenge to the railways in the UK and Europe is to accommodate the agreed requirements for modal shift from road to rail. A big factor in this is the competitiveness of the railway system and to support this the Centre of Excellence in Rolling stock will explore a wide range of innovative technologies applied to the design, manufacture, operation and maintenance of railway vehicles. A key aim is to develop new components and vehicles that are designed for low maintenance, high reliability and have integrated monitoring and smart maintenance as part of the vehicle design.

Overview of the Future Low Energy Vehicle theme

The energy performance of railway systems is an essential factor in maintaining the overall sustainability of the network. Although railways have a number of inherent advantages these are in danger of being eroded by rapid technological developments in other modes. The Centre of Excellence in Rolling stock will facilitate research into a wide range of energy optimisation techniques and will provide a test bed for innovations aimed at reducing carbon emissions and improving sustainability.

The remit of the Centre

The work of the Centre will support the ‘Four Cs’ of the Rail Technical Strategy and cover rolling stock of all types including passenger, high speed, freight, Light Rail, and Metro. In particular the research will lead to innovations that will reduce cost and carbon emissions. The Centre will also support research in several key areas of the RSG ‘Fast Track to the Future’ vision including contributions to three of the five key technology areas:

What will you see when you step inside and
connect with the Centre?

The detailed activities undertaken by the Centre will be shaped by the needs of the industry partners. The following interconnected facilities will provide world-class research infrastructure that has the flexibility to support emerging research priorities in the following key areas:

The structural integrity and crashworthiness facility

The Centre of Excellence in Rolling Stock will include equipment able to test structures at the component level under both static and dynamic multi-axial loads, to simulate service conditions. An impact test machine will be set up at Newcastle University to allow assessment of structural response (at component level) under highly dynamic loading conditions. Accelerated testing will be possible as well as the assessment of interactions between components under realistic conditions.

Developments in materials and manufacturing techniques have the potential to deliver significant weight reductions and improvements in performance and through life costs. However, in order to move towards virtual certification of composite rolling stock cabs, bodyshells and structural components, there are certain practical tests that need to be performed in order to provide confidence in the composite or hybrid (joined metal/composite structures) alternatives. In addition, appropriate inspection techniques will be needed to ensure the quality and consistency of the composite or hybrid structures. The emerging knowledge will be used to inform the development of appropriate standards for the new materials and processes.

The Traction drivetrain and braking facility

Building on the capabilities of the existing full-scale rolling contact test facilities at Huddersfield a new a new facility will be developed which will provide a Hardware-in-the-loop (HiL) train braking test facility, including precise wheel-rail creep control and climatic conditions to accurately recreate dew-point and low adhesion conditions.

An advanced bogie propulsion, drivetrain and running dynamics test facility will be developed which will provide capabilities to evaluate energy storage and ‘drivetrain of the future’ concepts. Further infrastructure will also be added to test drivetrain and gearbox sub-systems to improve performance and reliability. The Design Unit at Newcastle University has a facility for general gearbox testing. To support the specific needs of rail traction gearboxes, it will be necessary to develop and make available a facility for evaluating full-scale running transmission systems, under load, in realistic environments.

The Maintenance Reliability and Passenger Interaction Facility

The Centre of Excellence in Rolling Stock will include a unique full motion train simulator capable of providing a high-fidelity reproduction of the environment experienced by passengers and crew on a wide range of rolling stock from light rail vehicles to high speed trains. Use of simulators plays an increasingly important part in training drivers and other operational staff but also offers the opportunity for research in a variety of areas from driver behaviour to ride quality and passenger comfort.

The test facility will be configured to support multiple payloads to represent passenger car body, driving cabs, on-track plant and vestibules / gangways. These will provide the capability to assess suspension design improvements and investigate passenger’s perception of comfort in high speed curve transitions and in response to varying track quality. It will enable quantified assessment of vehicle interiors (design, HVAC, lighting, vibration environment) to be undertaken as well as providing a testing environment for on-board technologies.

When in cab-simulation mode the facility will provide unrivalled levels of realism to give the true ‘feel’ of operating a train under a wide range of conditions. This in turn will provide the opportunity to study driver’s response to real world situations, assess in-cab technology and develop human-machine interfaces together with a variety of opportunities for research in the fields of safety and performance. The facility will also be made available for crew training when not required for other purposes.

The Virtual Train Design Lab

The Virtual Train Design Lab will be a world-class virtual design facility for rolling stock. It will be equipped with state-of-the-art hardware and software for the virtual design, modelling, simulation and monitoring of rolling stock and components for rolling stock. This includes:

  • Computer Aided Design/Engineering facilities,
  • Engineering software facilities for simulation of vehicles and components including dynamics and aero-dynamics
  • Hardware-in-the-Loop facilities
  • Reliability Engineering facilities, including prognostics.

The lab will be equipped with a mid-size computer cluster, facilities for EDGE analytics and high-spec workstations.

The Loughborough team brings expertise and capability in control, mechatronics and HiL that doesn’t exist as a primary skill elsewhere in the Network. As part of UKRINN the aim is to establish a hardware-in-the-loop laboratory for rail that will be unique in Europe.

The facility will be focused around a ‘full system’ simulation model and bridges the Infrastructure and the Rolling Stock Centre’s of Excellence.

The Pantograph Interaction Dynamics Facility

With a strategic GB vision to increase electrification of existing railway lines and adoption of high speed electric trains, recent studies commissioned by RSSB have identified a lack of GB expertise in the research and development of improved railway pantograph systems and the overhead line.

The Rolling Stock Centre will provide a unique full-scale pantograph dynamic test rig with hardware-in-the-loop (HiL) facility for determination of OHL dynamic interaction forces. This will be coupled with state of the art mathematical simulation tools including access to and development of the University of Huddersfield’s pantograph dynamics software package.

Typical applications will include the development and assessment of new pantograph designs, the optimisation of pantograph suspension systems and the development of novel mechatronic solutions. The key benefits will be to reduce wear and maintenance costs of the pantograph and overhead line equipment whilst improving current collection quality at high speed and with multiple pantograph operation. This will in turn lead to increased reliability and availability of rolling stock and infrastructure.

Benefits of collaboration

The Centre presents an opportunity for:

The UK research base is well recognised internationally for its innovation and expertise in all aspects of rolling stock design and this is manifested by their highly successful presence in international research consortia and attraction of consultancy contracts from the UK and abroad. However, this is currently fragmented in various universities around the UK and opportunities to exploit further this knowledge are often lost.

The Centre will support the UK rail industry in developing innovative products and solutions to increase the performance, efficiency, reliability and competitiveness of rolling stock. Collaboration with the Centre will save industry time and effort in finding the specific expertise needed, have available at their disposal one of the most up-to-date test facilities dedicated to rolling stock development and access to a broad base of internationally recognised scientists and engineers with many years’ experience in the rail industry.

Our expertise

The Centre combines and builds on the expertise of three of the leading railway research universities in the UK. It brings together the Institute of Railway Research at the University of Huddersfield, the Centre for Railway Research (Newrail) and the Design Unit at Newcastle University, and the Control Systems Group at the University of Loughborough.

The combined facilities and scientific expertise of these teams will enable the creation of a Centre of Excellence of unrivalled capabilities in railway research with worldwide reach and forming the largest such facility in Europe dedicated to promoting innovation in rolling stock.

The Centre will provide existing and new facilities based at the University of Huddersfield with linked supporting facilities at the Universities of Newcastle and Loughborough.

Back to top