The 15th International Conference on Railway Engineering Design & Optimisation (COMPRAIL 2016) took place in Madrid, near the renowned Atocha Station. It was organised by Prof Carlos A Brebbia from the Wessex Institute, UK, and Dr Jose Manuel Mera from the Research Centre for Railway Engineering of the Universidad Politecnica di Madrid.
Permanent Co-chairs of the meeting are Dr Norio Tomii of Chiba Institute of Technology, Japan; Dr Panos Tzieropoulos of the Polytechnique of Lausanne, Switzerland; and Prof Bin Ning of Beijing Jiaotong University, China.
The conference, which started in Frankfurt in 1987, is held every two years in different locations around the world. It continues to attract the latest work in the use of advanced systems, promoting the general awareness throughout the business management, design, manufacture and operation of railways and other emerging passenger, freight and transit systems. It emphasises the use of computer systems in advanced railway engineering.
All papers presented at the meeting since the 1994 conference, also held in Madrid, are available Open Access in the eLibrary of the Wessex Institute (http://www.wessex.ac.uk/elibrary), from where they can be freely downloaded by any interested parties. This is part of efforts by the Wessex Institute to disseminate the work presented at the conferences as widely as possible.
Opening of the Conference
The Conference was opened by Carlos A Brebbia who described the work done at Wessex Institute in terms of research and development, emphasising its commitment to serve the engineering and scientific communities.
Carlos described some of the collaborative projects carried out in conjunction with major advanced research institutions, as well as industry. They range from temperature diffusion studies to electromagnetic field analysis, electrochemical problems, acoustics and many others, as well as problems involving stress analysis and the coupling of structures and fluids. The idea – Carlos explained – is to demonstrate the versatility of the computational tools developed at the Wessex Institute. They are based on the Boundary Element Method (BEM), a technique originating from the time that Carlos’ research group was located at Southampton University, before the creation of the Wessex Institute in 1986. BEM continues to be the main source of research and development at Wessex Institute, aiming to widen its field of application with the collaboration of industry and through interdisciplinary research partnerships.
Carlos then mentioned that the main objective of WIT is the dissemination of knowledge, with particular emphasis on science and engineering. Another way in which this is achieved is by the publication of papers from conferences and Journals run by the Institute, through its publishing arm, WIT Press. All these papers are now Open Access and hence are available for free to the international scientific and technical community.
Carlos then referred to the International Journals published by WIT, the latest of which is of direct relevance to the conference. This is the International Journal of Transport Development and Integration. The new publication covers all transportation modes and the general topic of transport systems, with particular emphasis on their integration and harmonisation. The customers’ requirements for better transportation systems and the need for a healthier environment are topics covered by the Journal. The Journal also reports on advanced railway transport modes.
The growing need for integration is partly to respond to the many advances that are taking place in transportation and in order to achieve better use of all systems with the subsequent gains in energy efficiency.
Carlos also pointed out the importance of the Conference series for the work of the Institute, not only in helping to disseminate knowledge but also providing WIT with new ideas in terms of research, training and publications such as the Transport Journal. The new publication is the result of the interaction between delegates and WIT staff, from conferences dealing with urban and road transportation, marine and fluvial transport, air freight and passenger transportation, and the general topic of energy optimisation in addition to railways engineering.
The variety of topics covered by the Journal reflects the complex interaction of transportation systems and the environment, and the need to establish integrated strategies. The aim is to come to optimal socio-economic solutions while reducing the negative environmental impact of current transportation systems.
Carlos mentioned that the conference venue was most appropriate as the magnificent room where the opening session took place was the one used by the plenary series of the meetings of the Spanish Association of Railway employees, now converted into a hotel. The style and luxury of the room reflects the importance of railway engineering at the beginning of the XXth Century when the building was constructed.
One hundred years later, railway engineering is returning to its former status and importance as demonstrated by the work presented at the conference.
Prof Jose Manuel Mera then welcomed the delegates to Madrid and referred to the importance of the meeting and the relevance for his research group on Railway Engineering at the Polytechnic University. He had arranged a special technical visit to a laboratory of the Public Works Ministry at the end of the conference and invited the delegates to register for this visit in advance.
There were a series of invited lectures on advanced topics of research and applications. They were held in the plenary session that took place in the larger theatre. They were as follows:
- “Lifecycle versus Element costs: A new approach to optimize the power supply system design in railways infrastructure”, by Jose Manuel Mera, CITEF, Polytechnic University of Madrid, Spain.
- “Increasing robustness of timetables by deliberate operation of trains to shorten headways”, by Norio Tomii, Chiba Institute of Technology, Japan.
- “Stochastic modelling for the real-time railway scheduling”, by Boris Davydov, Far Eastern State Transport University, Russia.
- “Preliminary results and conclusions from the experimental monitoring of thermal regime of railway track structure”, by Libor Izvolt, University of Zilina, Slovakia.
- “An analytical methodology for extending passenger counts in a metro system”, by Luca D’Acierno, University of Naples Federico II, Italy.
- “The impact of platform screen doors on rail capacity”, by Olov Lindfeldt, Sweco, Sweden.
- “An optimization approach to railway track allocation considering train-set routings”, by Bum Hwan Park, Korea Natural University of Transportation, South Korea.
- “Preliminary results and conclusions from mathematical modelling of thermal regime of railway track structure”, by Stanislaw Hodas, University of Zilina, Slovakia.
- “Intelligent adaptive schedules for railways”, by George Rzevski, The Open University, UK.
Numerous papers were presented during the Conference, classified under the following session headings:
- Operations quality
- Operations planning
- Energy supply and consumption
- Safety and security
- Timetable planning
- Planning and policy
- Monitoring and maintenance
- Advanced train control
- Railway vehicle dynamics
- Computer simulations
- Communications and signalling
There were numerous occasions for holding informal discussions during the coffee breaks and the excellent complimentary lunches that the hotel prepared and served in a private room. The hotel offered many places to meet and delegates took advantage during the evening to visit the numerous tapas bars and restaurants around the venue. The most famous are around the Plaza Santa Cruz which has the National Theatre and a classical hotel renowned in the past for being the favourite dwelling place for the bullfighters.
The Plaza Mayor and the Royal Palace, amongst other attractions, could be easily reached from the hotel. The location of the Conference was excellent in that it was in the proximity of the Atocha Station and railway complex attractions.
The meeting of the International Scientific Advisory Committee (ISAC) of the Conference took place over dinner in a well-established Madrid restaurant on Santa Ana Square, a place that was frequented by bullfighters who were accommodated in the imposing hotel on the same square. The food was excellent, accompanied by good wines. The meeting focused on the discussion of which new topics should be included in the Call for Papers, aiming for the continuous evolution of the conference. In this regard, it was rewarding to see the presence of many young delegates at the meeting, which will ensure its continuity. The Conference since its beginning in 1987 has attracted new ideas and advanced applications. Other topics of discussion were the organisation of the Committee and the location for the 2018 conference.
The Conference banquet took place in a unique restaurant located inside the old Atocha Rail Terminal. This building that has been lovingly restored is now the site of a unique indoor garden, with the old station glazed roof acting as a conservatory. The private room where the banquet took place is located on the first floor, overlooking the garden. The menu consisted of a series of excellent specialities, including as main course fish and lamb, accompanied by white wine from Rueda and reds from Duero Valley. At the end a glass of Cava was the occasion to have a few toasts to the conference and the delegates.
Prof Jose Manuel Mera, Co-Chair of the meeting, arranged a special technical visit at the end of the Conference. It was to the Centre of Studies and Experimentation (CEDEX) of the Ministry of Public Works in Madrid. There they have built the so-called CEDEX Track Box (CTB).
CTB is a 21 m long, 5 m wide and 4 m deep facility whose main objective is to test, at 1:1 scale, complete railway track sections of conventional and high speed lines for passenger, freight and mixed traffic, at speeds up to 400 km/h. Its principal advantage is the possibility of running accelerated fatigue tests.
The reproduction of the effect of the approaching, passing-by and going away of a train in a test section, is performed by application of loads, produced by three pairs of servohydraulic actuators (of 250 kN maximum load at 50 Hz working frequency), placed on each rail, and separated1.5 m along the rail.
Furthermore, the reproduction of track imperfection effects that produce low amplitude high frequency dynamic loads is performed by the use of a servohydraulic actuator of 10 kN capacity at 200 Hz working frequency and two piezoelectric actuators of 20kN at 300 Hz working frequency.
The railway track response, in terms of displacements, velocities and accelerations, is collected from a large number of linear variable differential transformers, geophones, accelerometers and pressure cells installed inside the embankment and the bed layers of the track. The railway superstructure response is recorded with a number of mechanical displacement transducers, laser sensors, geophones and accelerometers installed on the different track components. This load and sensor system makes it possible to analyse the short and long term behaviour of railway track sections submitted to any kind of train traffic and to calibrate 3D numerical models.
Close of the Conference
The conference was closed by Carlos, who thanked the delegates for their presence saying that he hoped that they would consider attending COMPRAIL 18 as well as other WIT conferences. The meeting – Carlos said – had been highly successful in terms of quality of the presentations and the number of discussions that took place during the conference.
Carlos ended his final remarks by inviting the delegates to visit the campus of the Wessex Institute next time they are in the region. This will give them a better appreciation of the objectives and activities of WIT.