PhD Studentship in Capacity of Pile Foundations for Railway Over-Line Electrification Equipment
University of Southampton School of Engineering
United Kingdom

PhD Studentship in Capacity of Pile Foundations for Railway Over-Line Electrification Equipment

School of Engineering

Location: Highfield Campus

Closing Date: Monday 31 August 2020

Reference: 1283720DA

Supervisory Team: David Richards, William Powrie

Project description

Researching the totally reliable, affordable, zero-carbon, 24-hour railway

The railway is at the heart of Britain’s economy and touches the lives of millions of people daily. Future success relies on it becoming more resilient and more cost and carbon efficient, and on improving its service to passengers.

High capacity, high speed inter-urban rail for passengers and freight is of major importance around the world. Increased capacity on new and existing routes is urgently needed to decarbonise land transport and improve economic efficiency. Electrification of the network remains a key strategic contributor to this vision.

Up until the early 21st century, foundations for railway over-line electrification equipment (OLE) on UK railways were traditionally up to 5 m in length. However, design methods and structures introduced in connection with the Great Western Electrification Programme led to pile lengths up to roughly twice this. The reasons for this have been explored, and the applicability of the traditional empirical approach demonstrated with reference to a limited series of field tests, but considerable uncertainties and opportunity for further economy remain.

Your project will explore the factors influencing the capacity of pile foundations for railway OLE support masts, which may include the effects of an embankment or cutting slope on the lateral resistance; soil stiffness and the assessment of serviceability; the impacts of load cycling and gust loading; interactions between lateral, vertical and twist loading; and site characterisation issues. Investigative methods may include field testing, numerical and analytical modelling, and geotechnical centrifuge testing.

Enjoying the best of both worlds, you will be employed by Network Rail (NR) on a graduate salary and work alongside a world-leading research team at the new National Infrastructure Laboratory in Southampton. You will be a member of a small cohort of doctoral students working with NR in the research group that leads the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) Centre of Excellence in Infrastructure. You will be supervised jointly by the University and NR, with opportunities to spend periods of time in NR offices and on site. Your PhD research outputs are likely to lead quickly to real world trials and potential adoption into standards and practice.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact William Powrie, Geotechnical Research Group, Email: for a response or to ask for a call back

Entry Requirements

Applicants should have at least a relevant UK 2:1 honours degree or its international equivalent.

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 31 August 2020. Short-listed candidates will be interviewed by the University and Network Rail jointly soon afterwards.

Funding: full tuition for UK/EU students. Successful candidates will be employed by Network Rail with a starting salary of £26,500 per annum for up to 3.5 years.

How To Apply

Applications should be made online here selecting “PhD Eng & Env (Full time)” as the programme. Please enter “Pile foundation capacity for railway OLE” under the Topic or Field of Research. A parallel application to Network Rail will be required

Applications should include:

Curriculum Vitae

Personal statement of your reasons for applying, not exceeding 500 words

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts to date

Apply online:

For further information please contact:



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