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SPURT — Result In Brief

Project ID: 506401
Funded under: FP6-SUSTDEV
Country: Germany

The fast train to harmonisation

Different standards between and within Europe's various rail networks present a major challenge in terms of delays and breakdowns. Meanwhile, the harmonisation of standards promises to deliver more efficient and cost-effective rail transport.
The fast train to harmonisation
Trains, trams and light rail services are efficient and effective modes of transport and a sustainable alternative to the automobile. However, they currently face a number of challenges.

For example, vehicles often do not behave as expected, despite being fully compatible with specifications and having passed the acceptance tests. A particular vehicle may perform well on one network yet exhibit significant problems on another.

In addition, many operators have different types of vehicles and track systems on their networks, and require that existing and future vehicles perform well locally. This is one reason why most vehicles today are built to local specifications.

However, harmonising vehicle specifications at the European level has numerous advantages. These include higher residual value for the vehicles and greater scope for leasing. Moreover, it would enable manufacturers to enjoy greater economies of scale, bringing down production costs and lead times. Nevertheless, before this can be achieved, major track-related problems must first be resolved.

'Seamless public urban rail transport' (SPURT), a project financed by the Sixth Framework Programme's (FP6) 'Sustainable Development' sub-programme, tackled these issues. The project developed new methodologies for maximising the lifetime of wheels and rails in operation. These included optimal maintenance procedures and approaches to minimising the grinding of wheels in order to reduce life-cycle costs and maintain safety. SPURT also defined infrastructure requirements for the maximum acceptable irregularity levels that would comply with vehicle safety and corresponding reference data.

The project team built up comprehensive technical knowledge of rolling contact fatigue and the flange-climb derailment mechanism. SPURT also collected data on the optimal combinations of materials for wheels and rails. In addition, it carried out a sensitivity analysis on the influence of the main parameters involved in wheel/rail dynamic loads. As a test case study, a year-long evaluation of vehicle operation was conducted on the Milan network in Italy and dealt with rolling contact fatigue.

The results of the SPURT project should - as its name implies - help European network operators and manufacturers move towards seamless public urban rail transportation.

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