Advanced TechnologyRail

A look at component performance in the rail designs of today and tomorrow

By March 22, 2016 No Comments

We live in an increasingly 24x7x365 world, where infrastructure is inextricably linked to economic success. In practice, this means that cities are operating around the clock, and the rail networks that serve and link them are expected to rise to the challenge. Rod Holroyd, Global Market Manager for Rail within Trelleborg’s industrial anti vibration solutions operation, looks at how even small components play a role in keeping the railways running and keeping rail passengers satisfied.

There is a global trend towards providing round-the-clock travel for passengers in some of the world’s busiest cities. The trains on Boston’s MBTA have started running until 3am on the weekends, Washington D.C.’s Metro already does the same and Philadelphia’s SEPTA offers a 24 hour weekend service for two of the key city subway lines. New York is the city that never sleeps and neither does its subway – there is no such thing as the last train home. London, Tokyo and Copenhagen all have plans to follow suit. But with the expectation of offering passengers rail and tube services throughout the day and night, comes the added pressure for the railways and rolling stock to perform to the highest of standards for increasingly longer periods of time.

Indeed, the reason why most services do not currently operate for 24-hours is because downtime for maintenance and repair must be scheduled in, which impacts upon the service provided. Therefore, in order to operate for an extended period, trains must perform to higher standards, have less time between overhauls and maintenance, and be longer running and more reliable. Over time, the period between overhauls has increased from approximately six years to anything up to 15 years.

Small components making a big difference

The component parts that make up a train play a vital role in extending the time between overhauls, reducing maintenance and repair to keep them running 24 hours a day. Correct suspension solutions represent one example. Components must perform perfectly to provide a safe and comfortable environment for passengers throughout the entire service life of the train.

During travel, trains are subjected to a range of forces and vibrations, providing unwanted noise and discomfort to those on board. Suspension systems are designed to counteract and control these irregularities while optimising movement, by allowing the forces to be transmitted safely, ensuring the train stays safely on its tracks whilst providing optimum ride quality.

Similarly, trains are designed to be much lighter today than decades ago. This makes them more economical to run and as a result, components must also be lighter and more compact, but still meet the same performance requirements. The forces of the train on the track must be correctly managed with a suitable suspension system, to keep the train operating safely.

Suspension in use

Earlier this year, Trelleborg’s industrial anti-vibration solutions operation was chosen to supply rail suspension solutions for the highly anticipated Crossrail project in the UK and its new fleet of trains. Trelleborg provides a suite of suspension solutions for Bombardier’s new advanced fleet of Class 345 trains, operating on the new high frequency, high capacity Crossrail line across London.

The suspension components that work to reduce noise and vibration, lower maintenance and downtime and extend the life of the train, whilst providing a comfortable service for passengers.

These solutions have been stringently designed and tested to meet the extended service interval required; so that risk of unexpected downtime for maintenance is reduced.

In fact, in order to meet customer demand for products that will perform over an extended life cycle, Trelleborg has evolved its portfolio. By using enhanced compounds, conducting extensive finite element testing in the design stages and putting products through extensive lab testing prior to entering service, the lifecycle of Trelleborg’s rail suspension products have increased from six to 15 years.

 Future design and innovation

In a market place that is historically conservative, innovation can be viewed as risky. Since developing its original Chevron spring back in 1959, Trelleborg is still innovating to meet the changing demands of rail travel in 2016 in terms of providing a superior service for passengers around the clock. The suspension products are developed around the idea of intelligent innovation: progress built on business needs – in the case of rail, low maintenance and longevity of service to ensure that trains can run longer, more comfortably and with less downtime.

Additionally, looking ahead to future rail travel and technology, on-board monitoring and data gathering will provide the industry with component performance results quickly and easily. In some cases it can take years to get performance feedback, but with this sort of instant data, the industry can better analyse and plan maintenance schedules based around how the components are actually performing, not how they’re expected to perform. This insight could also breed a greater confidence to innovate.


A supplier that can provide new ideas and products, ensure greater reliability and meet the service life expectancies required, will prove to be the ideal partner for forward thinking rail manufacturers and leasing companies alike. As such, look for suppliers that provide expertise, track record, innovation, stability and ensure compliance to meet the many international standards and legislation. After all, suppliers meeting rail customer’s needs will ultimately meet the passenger’s needs too.

Bill Mortel

About Bill Mortel

Having started with the company as an apprentice 45 years ago, Bill has held a wide variety of roles in both Technical and Commercial functions. A member of the Rubber in Engineering Group within the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3), Bill has a broad depth of knowledge with respect to product design, testing, and application performance. He is currently Director of Material and Development.

Leave a Reply