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Integrated Study of Rolling Contact Fatigue


The Problem
The rolling contact between railway wheels and rails can
result in fatigue cracking of the rail head. This from of
damage, variously referred to as "head checking" or
"squats", can lead to sudden breakage of the rail and
thus a derailment risk. Controlling this risk, through
for example the replacement of affected rails that would
have otherwise provided many years of further service, is
now an increasing economic burden on many major European
railways. The damage is not normally associated with the
presence of any metallurgical or manufacturing defect in
the rail. It is simply the result of the steel's
inability to withstand the increased demands of modern
traffic. Rolling contact fatigue (RCF) has proved to be a
major problem on the Japanese Shinkansen and also on the
newer high speed networks. Without action therefore, it
can be expected that this will be a major operational
problem for the European High Speed Network. The European
Union proposal on interoperability of the trans European
high speed rail system (Brussels, July 1995) Annex I pt
3. Compatibility of infrastructure and rolling stock
states. "High speed train services presuppose excellent
compatibility between the characteristics of the
infrastructure and those of the rolling stock.
Performance levels, quality of service and cost depend
upon that compatibility". Action is needed to ensure
compatability i.e. speed and safety of operation at an
affordable cost. Specifically, Annex III, refering to
interoperability states: pt 1.1.2 "The parameters
involved in the wheel rail contact must meet the
stability requirements needed, in order to guarantee safe
movement at the maximum authorised speed". pt 1.1.3 "The
components used must withstand any normal or exceptional
stresses that have been specified during their period in
service. The safety repercussions of any accidental
failures must be limited by appropriate means". The Union
Internationale des Chemins de fer (UIC) recognises the
need to solve the rail RCF problem and supports ICON.
The Objective
To develop and validate theoretical models for the
prediction of wheel rail contact conditions and rolling
contact fatigue under realistic operating conditions.
These will enable rail rolling contact fatigue damage to
be minimised through the optimisation of wheel rail
profiles, rail metallurgy, maintenance strategies and
friction conditions between the rail and the wheel.
The Deliverables
Tools and knowledge to support the development of
improved design of rail, materials, treatments,
maintenance and usage of track components leading to the
improved safety and cost effectiveness of European
railway operations and facilitating the development of
the trans European high speed rail system.

Call for proposal

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754,autralielaan 13
3526 AB Utrecht

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EU contribution
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Participants (5)