5 Tech Innovations for Railway Design and Construction

There are various innovations in railway design and construction that will change the future of railway transport. They also aim to make the trains faster, more comfortable, and safer. Here are five tech innovations for railway design and construction.

Mechatronic Switches

Most delays in railway transport are caused by switch failures. Switch and crossing systems allow trains to change tracks at a junction. When there is a problem with this system, it causes delays and inconveniences to passengers. Unfortunately, this problem occurs frequently, and there have been few changes to the mechanism since its inception.

Luckily, one research project has identified alternatives for this system by developing an innovative design called Repoint. This technology uses three independent motors to lift and shift the rails and then use gravity to lock them back in place. Repoint is part of next-generation mechatronic switches that are cost-effective and faster. They are also easy to service, maintain, and use backup motors to lower chances of failure.

Active Suspension

The speed of a train is restricted by various things, including the suspension systems, especially when moving on a curved track. It also limits the number of trains that can use a particular route. Suspension systems improve the comfort of passengers on uneven ground by altering the distance between the carriage and the wheels. Railways usually use gasketing materials such as AMS 3195 silicone to deal with the resistance and high heat produced.

AMS 3195 silicone

Active suspension systems have actuators, sensors, and controllers that can change the distance between the carriage and wheels more accurately. This helps to increase the comfort of passengers on the train and increases the stability and speed of the train as it passes around curves.

Active Pantograph

Pantographs are devices on top of electric trains to collect current through contact with an overhead line. To secure connection in various areas like level crossings, tunnels, and bridges, pantographs are set at a certain height that usually varies depending on the trains. Active pantographs are being developed with an actuator that controls the height of the pantographs and the vibrations produced when transferring power. They can help prevent various problems due to changes in the overhead line-height. The contact force would also receive a significant boost and avoid contact loss issues from environmental elements such as strong winds.

Active Steering

Trains have a fixed axle that interlocks and connects the wheels to prevent any rotation between wheels in a wheelset. High-speed trains usually reduce their speed on a curve or when taking a divergent route to ensure that the wheels remain on the track and reduce their vibrations. To improve this system, researchers are coming up with wheels that can rotate independently and have a separate actuation to guide the wheelsets on a curve. This will help increase the train’s stability on a curved route and boost its speed.

Virtual Coupling

Trains have a signaling system that determines the line’s capacity or the maximum number of trains that cause use a particular route. The block system is one of the most common signaling systems that divide the tracks into different sections. The system allows only one train to run on a section at a time. This means the trains must set a large gap between them to avoid being on the same line.

There is another system called the moving-block signaling system that sets the gap between trains. The system takes into account the distance the trains take to stop in an emergency. However, the distance is still significant and can cause some delays. The virtual coupling system aims at reducing that gap significantly by using real-time information.

The system calculates where the train will stop and its activities such as speed and braking. It then determines whether to increase or decrease the gap based on the information to allow the minimum necessary gap between the trains. Shortening the gap between trains allows more trains to use the route and their safety.

These innovations can help to improve railway transport and enable trains to maintain high speeds. They can make train rides more comfortable and avoid delays in the system, making them more efficient. Innovations in railway designs and construction continue to improve the performance of trains by adapting to changing conditions of the line.

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