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Improving the performance of railway track-switching through the introduction of fault tolerance

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posted on 27.11.2018, 14:18 by Samuel D. Bemment
In the future, the performance of the railway system must be improved to accommodate increasing passenger volumes and service quality demands. Track switches are a vital part of the rail infrastructure, enabling traffic to take different routes. All modern switch designs have evolved from a design first patented in 1832. However, switches present single points of failure, require frequent and costly maintenance interventions, and restrict network capacity. Fault tolerance is the practice of preventing subsystem faults propagating to whole-system failures. Existing switches are not considered fault tolerant. This thesis describes the development and potential performance of fault-tolerant railway track switching solutions. The work first presents a requirements definition and evaluation framework which can be used to select candidate designs from a range of novel switching solutions. A candidate design with the potential to exceed the performance of existing designs is selected. This design is then modelled to ascertain its practical feasibility alongside potential reliability, availability, maintainability and capacity performance. The design and construction of a laboratory scale demonstrator of the design is described. The modelling results show that the performance of the fault tolerant design may exceed that of traditional switches. Reliability and availability performance increases significantly, whilst capacity gains are present but more marginal without the associated relaxation of rules regarding junction control. However, the work also identifies significant areas of future work before such an approach could be adopted in practice.



  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


© Samuel David Bemment

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.