PhD Studentship in Threshold Loading Effects on Railway Ballast
University of Southampton School of Engineering
United Kingdom

PhD Studentship in Threshold Loading Effects on Railway Ballast

School of Engineering

Location: Highfield Campus

Closing Date: Monday 31 August 2020

Reference: 1283420DA

Supervisory Team: William Powrie, Louis Le Pen, Madhu Murthy

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.

Britain’s railways now carry more passengers each year than at any time since the 1960s, on a network that has roughly halved in size. Rail passenger journey numbers have roughly doubled since the mid-1990s. This has resulted in the need to extract as much capacity as possible from the existing network, by running longer, heavier and more frequent trains. There is especially scope to increase the speed and axle loads of freight trains, but there are concerns that to do so might cause an infrastructure maintenance threshold to be crossed. Your project will investigate this effect with respect to ballasted track.

The investigation of ballasted track settlement will be based on tests in the Southampton Rail Testing Facility, in which cumulative ballast settlements under millions of load cycles will be assessed as a function of varying axle load and loading pattern / frequency. The experimental data will be supported by various types of modelling, from empirical ballast settlement equations through rheological type models through to a finite element / vehicle-track interaction analysis.

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.

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 and 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 “Threshold loading effects on railway ballast” 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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