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Mole Solutions investigates braking innovations for train tracks

In order to improve the efficiency of the UK rail system, RSSB’s Future Railway programme launched a competition last year to find novel, technical solutions to increase braking performance and reliable braking rates, independent of wheel rail adhesion.

Mole Solutions was one of the winning entries and has received funding to carry out a six-month feasibility study to investigate the technical and commercial viability of its proposed solution.

Bob Silverthorne, Development Director of Mole Solutions, explained: “In the UK the performance of train brakes relies on friction at the wheel rail interface and railways have to be designed to allow for unpredictable brake rates caused by changes in weather conditions and rail contaminants such as tree mulch. This is sometimes called the ‘leaves on the line’ problem.

“We are investigating the use of an out of vehicle electromagnetic control loop to compensate for degradation at the wheel rail interface and so ensure the required braking performance is met.”

Mole Solutions is using the same technology of magnetic propulsion and braking it has developed for its freight pipeline, which carries unmanned capsules safely and securely in enclosed pipes.

Three months into the feasibility study and computer modelling has been used to establish the basic design parameters. A facility is now being prepared to validate the model and demonstrate its effectiveness on low mass and velocity vehicles.

If the results of the feasibility study are suitably compelling to receive the second stage of funding, Mole Solutions will develop preproduction subsystem hardware and undertake tests with higher mass and velocity vehicles at an enhanced testing facility at Alconbury Weald Enterprise Campus.

David Clarke, Director of Innovation at RSSB said: “We are pleased that Mole Solutions, one of our competition winners, is ready and able to take their proposed solution to the next stage of feasibility testing. There are several large challenges facing the rail industry if we are to achieve the vision of the Rail Technical Strategy to deliver the railway of the future. Improving braking performance is one of those key challenges and we will be looking forward to receiving the results from Mole Solutions as their project progresses.”

Predictable and optimised braking on the UK rail network will benefit all users by enabling more reliable timetabling and increased capacity. Subject to a successful feasibility study and further testing, Mole Solutions could open up a new system of train control whereby off vehicle braking would become an interactive part of the journey management process.

For more information, you can follow Mole Solutions on Twitter @Freightpipeline or visit www.molesolutions.co.uk

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