Home General Interest New research project will slash train delays

New research project will slash train delays

The University of Birmingham has launched a new research project aimed at improving railway navigation technology in an effort to reduce train delays and increase passenger experience.

It aims to tackle one of the rail sector’s biggest challenges: how to pinpoint the accurate location of a moving train. Overcoming this challenge is key to ensuring fewer train delays and increased passenger safety.

The University of Birmingham-led UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing and the University of Birmingham’s

The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) is joining forces with the University of Birmingham-led UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing to work on this research. Experts from both centres will collaborate to develop a system for quantum-enabled navigation, which is a standalone system capable of capturing highly accurate measurements without reliance on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), which will help engineers ensure the health of the railway track and passenger ride comfort.

“The system we are developing will have gravity map-matching capabilities, allowing engineers to understand what is happening underneath the track as well as the train’s movement,” explained Professor Clive Roberts, director of BCRRE at the University of Birmingham, and co-investigator for the Navigation work package at the Quantum Technology Hub. 

“The quantum sensors will provide highly accurate measurements that will help to detect the rate of change of the track, and subsequently, any deteriorations which might lead to faults.”

Professor Costas Constantinou, Chair of Communication Electrodynamics and Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer at the University of Birmingham’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, said: “Our dependence on GPS can leave navigation systems vulnerable to spoofing or, more frequently, loss of positioning due to weak network signals – a particular challenge when trains are moving through tunnels, for example.

“Our standalone navigation system does not rely on satellite signals and is therefore not exposed to the same external risks experienced by GNSS.

As part of the project, field tests will take place on the test track at Long Marston, in Warwickshire early next year, where sensors will be installed on a purpose-built stabilisation platform in a train.

Nigel Wordsworth BSc(Hons) MCIJhttp://therailengineer.com

SPECIALIST AREAS Rolling stock, mechanical equipment, project reports, executive interviews


Nigel Wordsworth graduated with an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering from Nottingham University, after which he joined the American aerospace and industrial fastener group SPS Technologies. After a short time at the research laboratories in Pennsylvania, USA, Nigel became responsible for applications engineering to industry in the UK and Western Europe. At this time he advised on various engineering projects, from Formula 1 to machine tools, including a particularly problematic area of bogie design for the HST.

A move to the power generation and offshore oil supply sector followed as Nigel became director of Entwistle-Sandiacre, a subsidiary of the Australian-owned group Aurora plc. At the same time, Nigel spent ten years as a Technical Commissioner with the RAC Motor Sports Association, responsible for drafting and enforcing technical regulations for national and international motor racing series.

Joining Rail Engineer in 2008, Nigel’s first assignment was a report on new three-dimensional mobile mapping and surveying equipment, swiftly followed by a look at vegetation control machinery. He continues to write on a variety of topics for most issues.

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