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Manchester Metropolitan University and Phoenix Inspection Systems have developed a computer modelling program that predicts rail track failure.

As a control, Phoenix will compare the predictions of the university’s software with the results of laboratory trials on wheels and track.

Computer simulation programs assess the performance of rail vehicles, predict track damage and investigate rail accidents by focusing on the contact patch, which is the area where the wheel comes into contact with the rail.

This tiny area, typically the size of a thumbnail, takes the full force from the weight of the vehicles and the driving, braking and curving forces.

The contact patch changes in shape depending on the profile of the wheel and the rail track, the load it is bearing and the motion of the vehicle.

The Hertz Analytical Theory, first developed in the 1890s, is the basis of most prediction techniques and although new methods have been developed since then, the results can vary dramatically depending on the circumstances.

Professor Simon Iwnicki and research student Philip Shackleton have drawn on information contributed by universities and rail companies from around the world.

Meanwhile, Phoenix has developed a scanner for use on a scale version of a wheel and rail that emulates the stresses that would occur on a real railway.

It is also developing the software to process the data collected by the ultrasonic probe.

Professor Iwnicki said: ‘Our research aims to determine the limitations of existing models and produce an optimised tool that will provide more accurate predictions across different test situations.’ Dr Chris Gregory, head of the transducer development team at Phoenix, said: ‘By analysing the quality of the ultrasound reflections from the trial rig while it is in operation, we can detect the pressure distribution, which indicates where strains are occurring.

‘These findings will be used to corroborate the accuracy of the computational model.’

Phoenix Inspection Systems

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