- Project Leader: Dr Francis Franklin
- Sponsors: UK Health and Safety Executive
Cracking of metals is a major problem for railways. The Hatfield disaster was caused by a rail shattering into hundreds of pieces. It is very difficult to determine how badly a rail or wheel is cracked from its external appearance, and it is not cost effective to take remedial action merely on the suspicion of a crack or defect. How cracks grow, and how fast, is being investigated using computer modelling and experimental testing. Rail-wheel contact forces drive much of the damage, but other issues such as welds, residual stress following rail manufacture, and maintenance techniques can also affect the rail life.