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The University of Southampton

New rail damping device could pave the way for rail expansion

Published: 26 March 2003

A rail damping device, which will reduce noise from railway tracks and make rail expansion a more desirable option, has been developed by scientists at the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) at the University of Southampton, and Corus Rail. A European patent for this damper has just been granted.

Last month, drivers in London were introduced to the congestion charge in a move by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, to reduce traffic in the capital. The alternative to car travel is rail and in general it is seen as an environmentally friendly option. However, opposition to the expansion of rail capacity centres mostly around the issue of noise.

The new rail damper, designed by the ISVR/Corus team, is a tuned mass-spring absorber system. It tackles the noise which is generated at the wheel/rail interface. The damper can be fitted to a variety of standard rail sections and tackles the noise at source. This makes it a significantly more attractive option than noise containment measures such as barriers, which are visually intrusive and very expensive. Tests have shown that reductions of the track component of noise of about six decibels are to be expected.

In a paper launching the new rail damper, ISVR's Dr David Thompson and Dr Chris Jones comment: "The highest priorities in designing railway track are safety, low cost of maintenance and standardisation. For new methods of reducing noise to be acceptable, they must be capable of being fitted to the established infrastructure design with minimal change to railway practice. Therefore, we concentrated on a damper that could be fitted to standard tracks and would not interfere with normal maintenance operations."

The rail damper has already been installed at three locations in the Netherlands and one in France.

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Notes for editors

  1. The Institute for Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) is an internationally renowned centre of excellence in teaching, research and consulting. In the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise, it received the top 5* rating.
  2. The University is currently raising funds for a £5.7 million new building for the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research. The new building will house an updated, state-of-the-art Biomedical Imaging Research Department, which will make it the one of the leading Biomedical Imaging centres in the country.
  3. The interface between technology and humans has been at the centre of ISVR's activities, with active research and teaching programmes in audiology (including a highly respected MSc course), human vibration interactions, medical imaging, patient monitoring and physiological modelling. Clinics at ISVR (including the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre) and collaborations with hospitals are at the core of these projects. ISVR also runs undergraduate courses in various aspects of sound and vibration: an MEng/BEng degree in Acoustical Engineering, a BSc in Acoustics and Music, and from September, a BSc programme in Audiology.
  4. More details can be found on the web-site at
  5. Corus Rail is a total solutions provider to the international railway industry. The business is dedicated to advancing the rail sector through the development of innovative, value-adding products. Core capabilities include rail and steel sleeper manufacture, track maintenance and renewals, technological and consultancy services, switch and crossings manufacture.
  6. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £235 million.
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