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Seamless Public Urban Rail Transport

Rail mass transit vehicles, which are defined as trams, light rail and metros, very often do not behave as expected when running on existing rail infrastructure, although the vehicles may well be fully compatible with the specifications of the buying authorities and they may well have passed the acceptance tests. Many operators have different types of vehicles on their infrastructure and most operators also have different types of track systems in their network. They want the current and future vehicles to perform well on their complete existing and future network. This is one of the reasons why most vehicles today are built to local specifications.

Tags: Rail


In rail traffic, existing and planned standards dealing with the design of single, highly loaded structure components are not based on the latest knowledge and do not offer a reliable guarantee against damage. Compared to other transportation systems, a lack of basic knowledge generally exists in railway design. Such knowledge and experience are decisive prerequisites for a reliable design and the specification of safe structures for long-term usage.

Ensuring the competitiveness of the rail-bound vehicle industry requires innovative solutions and methods to reduce system costs, shorten development times and increase safety and transport capacity. Rail infrastructure is very important in this regard.

Lifetime and endurance strength are mainly determined by the following parameters:

  • operational loading combined with special event-loading (wheel-flats)
  • existing design of the complete trackbed system and its components
  • influence of materials
  • environmental conditions
  • quality assurance monitoring and maintenance schemes.

The interaction between vehicle and infrastructure results in complex stresses and damage mechanisms:

  • material fatigue under highly dynamic loads
  • damage to rails by rolling contact due to abrasion, wear and tear, plastic deformation in the surface zone
  • derailment
  • trackbed settlements.

Such damage may lead to considerable danger and a reduction in safety, as well as to a loss of comfort and a decreased driving performance. It will at least lead to an impairment of availability and an increase in maintenance expenditure. The SPURT project will lead to infrastructures, which are in an acceptable condition for ensuring seamless transportation. The infrastructure will no longer be the bottleneck for optimal operation. The vehicle speed should be as high as possible (though this is, in general, not an issue for the vehicle but depends on the condition of the infrastructure).


It is mandatory to first solve some major track-related problems before being able to increase the technical harmonisation for vehicles and hence the potential of these vehicles to be used in other cities. The advantages will be enormous: higher residual value of vehicles, higher scope for vehicle leasing, higher vehicle production series and hence reduction of manufacturing cost and production lead times.

The major track-related problems which are to be identified and solved are:

  • the reduction of the track degradation in time for ensuring a minimum track quality level
  • the avoidance of derailment for ensuring safety at all times
  • the improvement of the wheel/rail interface for reducing maintenance
  • the minimisation of noise and in particular structure-borne noise and vibrations.

The study (problem identification and solution) of the above track-related problems is the scope of this research project. Solutions will be sought which are effective for existing and future vehicle types, albeit that some vehicle (wheel set) adaptations might be recommended or required.

Description of work

Data will be collected about the tram lines in different European cities (i.e. the types of rail, types and numbers of curves/crossings, the current quality of the rail including any history of damaging growth, date of laying) and data about the vehicles running on these tracks (i.e. type and number of vehicles, profiles and wheel quality).

A comprehensive technical knowledge will be gained on flange-climb derailment mechanisms through experimental data and numerical results. Numerical data will be collected concerning the response of tramcars to degraded track conditions. This methodology can show which of the infrastructure requirements (maximum acceptable irregularity levels) are compatible with vehicle safety and operating conditions.

Data will be collected concerning the correlation between service loads and damaging growth on rails and wheels.


The outcomes of this project will be prediction methods and design tools for quieter urban city transport. It is not foreseen to have these aspects patented. The aim is to optimise study tools for the reduction of noise and vibration when applied to the development of new or renewed urban tracks. This strengthens the position in the European and international markets, and via a spread of technology and solution helps European cities to develop action plans to reduce city traffic noise as requested by EU Directive 2002/49/EC.