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Professor David Thompson MA PhD CEng FIMechE FIOA FHEA

Professor in Railway Noise and Vibration

Professor David Thompson's photo

David Thompson is an internationally recognised expert in the area of railway noise and vibration who has devoted his career to making trains quieter.

To reduce noise effectively you first have to understand it. This is the reason we do modelling and experiments, in order to increase our understanding and hence to be better able to control noise.

Current position

David Thompson is Professor of Railway Noise and Vibration.

His research is dominated by the noise and vibration of railways, particularly the reduction of rolling noise, aerodynamic noise and ground vibration. In his work he aims to develop appropriate theoretical models to achieve this. He has worked in many EU-funded collaborative projects and acts as a consultant to many companies in the rail industry.

David teaches on Undergraduate and Masters courses in Noise Control Engineering and Architectural Acoustics.

Career history

David graduated in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge in 1980. He worked for British Rail Research for nearly 10 years, mainly in the acoustics team. During this time he obtained his PhD at the ISVR in the area of wheel/rail noise modelling.

He then spent over six years at TNO in the Netherlands where he developed the TWINS model for railway rolling noise, which is still used throughout the industry.

In 1996 he returned to the UK on taking up an appointment as Lecturer at the ISVR, becoming Professor in 2004. He has written over 200 journal papers in the field and his book on ‘Railway Noise and Vibration: Mechanisms, Modelling and Means of Control’ was published by Elsevier in 2008 and has since been translated into Chinese.

In 2015 he was won the Faculty Supervisor of the Year and in 2018 he was awarded the Rayleigh Medal by the Institute of Acoustics for outstanding contributions to acoustics.

Research interests

David Thompson aims to develop theoretical models to understand and solve engineering problems. His particular interest is to use this approach to reduce noise and vibration from railways.

Specific research fields include:

  • Theoretical models for wheel/rail rolling noise, and their use for the design of quiet wheels and tracks.
  • Impact noise at discontinuities such as rail joints.
  • Curve squeal.
  • Aerodynamic noise from high-speed trains.
  • Ground vibration and ground-borne noise.
  • Bridge noise modelling.
  • Noise inside railway vehicles.
  • The growth of roughness on rails.

In addition David has developed a wide variety of related interests including architectural and building acoustics, automotive noise, and the dynamic properties of rubber.

Research group

Dynamics Group

Research project(s)

Track 21 - Railway Track for the 21st Century

Modelling Of Train Induced Vibration (MOTIV)

Railway damping technologies

Virtual certification of acoustic performance for freight and passenger trains

Prediction of groundborne noise and vibration in buildings

Noise and vibration is an important environmental consideration for many transport infrastructure and building projects. Audible noise and feelable vibration is often transmitted to the occupants of buildings through the ground and building structure, but its significance is difficult to accurately predict. This four year project will improve the prediction of such transmission, in order to reduce uncertainty and aid the design of projects for which groundborne noise and vibration is a factor.


Roll2Rail was one of the lighthouse projects of Shift2Rail, supported by the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Commission. The Roll2Rail project focussed on rolling stock and aimed to develop key technologies as part of a longer term strategy to revolutionise the rolling stock for the future.


RUN2RAIL was a Shift2Rail Open Call project within the Horizon2020 Programme. RUN2Rail explored a number of technical developments for future railway running gear, looking into ways to design trains that are more reliable, lighter, less damaging to the track, more comfortable and less noisy.


TRANSIT is a Shift2Rail project that will provide the railway community with a proven set of innovative tools and methodologies that reduce the environmental impact and improve interior acoustic comfort of railway vehicles.

Modelling of rail corrugation growth in curved track

Prediction of Railway Impact Noise due to Wheel/Rail Discontinuities

Sound radiation of a rotating railway wheelset

Modelling sound generation in pianos

Aerodynamic noise of high-speed train bogies

The project aims to extend our understanding of the generation mechanisms of the aerodynamic noise from the bogie region of a high-speed train, and to develop some measures to reduce it.

The Influence of Baseplate Fastening Systems on Railway Rolling Noise

The influence of existing buildings on ground-borne vibration from railways


SILVARSTAR is a Shift2Rail project that will develop a commonly accepted methodology and a user-friendly prediction tool for ground vibration; and develop a fully functional system for auralisation and visualisation of railway noise based on physics-based models.

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Book Chapters




Working Papers

Title Module Code Programme Role
Architectural and Building Acoustics FEEG6011 Acoustical Engineering, MSc Sound and Vibration Studies Coordinator
Noise Control Engineering ISVR3064 Acoustical Engineering, MSc Sound and Vibration Studies Coordinator
Professor David Thompson
Engineering, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton. SO17 1BJ United Kingdom

Room Number : 13/3077

Facsimile: (023) 8059 3190

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