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Integrated Study of Rolling Contact Fatigue

Exploitable results

Rolling contact fatigue cracking is a major cause of premature rail removal in some of Europe's most modern railway systems; it has been estimated that removal and other associated costs amount to an annual total of around 300 million Euro. The ICON (Integrated Study of Rolling Contact Fatigue) project was designed to increase knowledge of rolling contact fatigue damage and wear mechanisms and to create improved and validated models of them. Armed with the resulting improved knowledge base and tools the prospects of reducing rolling contact fatigue failures through maintenance strategies, vehicle and track design, modified friction conditions, new materials and their application should be enhanced. The project work was divided into six major technical tasks covering theoretical modelling, laboratory materials testing, laboratory simulation by rolling/sliding, computer modelling of wheel/rail contact stresses, the influence of surface contaminants and track validation. A seventh task dealt with project co-ordination and project management. Although at an early stage, some applications of the models developed may include; the performance of existing and new materials, the significance of vehicle design features affecting the wheel/rail contact zone, track design, remedial actions, such as in-situ rail grinding, and the benefits and disadvantages of rail surface contaminants such as lubricants. To facilitate the immediate implementation of some project results a special Applications Guide is available to ICON participants. It is concluded that the objectives and deliverables of the ICON project have been met. Major theoretical and experimental developments have led to quantified models which provide new insights for the railway industry. However, further development of the models is necessary for economic, practical application.