The impact of new materials on the whole-life cost of railway assets

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in collaboration with the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), supported by Department for Transport (DfT) invite research proposals working towards the following joint research call.

The objective of this call is to establish a number of cross-disciplinary consortia to conduct research into novel applications for materials to reduce whole life asset costs.

The rail industry spends billions of pounds annually renewing, installing and maintaining its resources. Creating a higher capacity railway means the need to purchase and install new assets, but will also lead to increased use and wear of existing assets. Components will need to be reliable and maintainable, while minimising whole life costs.

Great strides have been made in materials science in the past decade that have not yet been fully considered by the rail industry. Examples where materials could be used to make lighter, stronger, more intelligent railway assets include, but are not limited to:

  • Materials for lighter and stronger structures and components
  • Materials with improved mechanical properties (for example resistance against corrosion, no need for paint, lightness, strength, durability)
  • Self-healing materials for more durable rail assets
  • Self-monitoring materials for optimised maintenance
  • Materials for energy storage and energy harvesting

More innovative solutions are required to extend asset lifecycles and strengthen them to meet increases in railway demand. Novel materials applications could potentially offer a more sustainable and cost effective approach to asset management.

We welcome innovative solutions from academic parties, including those not traditionally associated with rail research. We are looking for the formation of well-managed, cohesive and sustainable research teams to develop solutions. Applicant teams should present a research vision and management structure that will maximise the impact of their solutions.

Up to £2 million has been earmarked for this call subject to research quality. It is anticipated that we will fund three to four proposals (in the region of £500,000 - 800,000). Proposals will be assessed using a two stage process. First proposals will go out for external peer review, which will be followed by an expert prioritisation panel comprised of both academic and industry experts.

Furthermore to apply to this call you must complete an intent to submit form by 16:00 on 04 September 2014 which can be found at the bottom of this page. An information day will be held at RSSB offices relating to the calls focus on 11 September 2014 (further detail within call document).