Vehicle-track interfaces

Vehicle-track interfaces

Specialists in every aspect of vehicle-track interaction

The railway is a complex 'system of systems' with multiple interfaces that must be managed carefully.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the interaction between vehicle and rail track. Specific knowledge and deep expertise is required to understand the causes of interface issues and deliver effective responses in areas such as:

  • Designing and selecting the correct materials and components - including special trackwork elements such as switches and crossings - to meet relevant requirements and achieve whole-life targets;
  • Overseeing performance improvements and controlling safety risks and costs for infrastructure managers, train operators and maintainers;
  • Optimising infrastructure capacity and reducing transit times by improving braking performance of rolling stock;
  • Delivering better ride quality to improve the customer experience.

What services does vehicle-track interfaces cover?

From conventional mainlines to light rail systems, we provide a wide range of services all over the world, focused squarely on the complex interfaces between rolling stock and infrastructure.

We have a global network of teams across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, so we can undertake site visits to examine and measure the issues on the field or work remotely using your inputs.

Our team conducts detailed investigations using various techniques, such as multi-body vehicle dynamics simulations, finite element analysis, predictive modelling and special measurement and testing tools for components such as wheel/rail and pantograph/catenary interactions, vehicle dynamics, gauging, aerodynamics, noise and vibrations, soil dynamics adhesion and EMC.


We also offer independent assessment and engineering safety management services - such as Notified or Designated Body certification - and can develop safety cases to support product approval applications. Where appropriate, we ensure projects apply relevant safety approaches, such as the Common Safety Method for Risk Evaluation and Assessment.

What are the benefits of our vehicle-track service to you?

Our experienced teams of engineers possess a solid background in the fundamental principles of railway vehicle-track interaction and contribute to various national and international committees and working groups. They will ensure your projects have access to the latest techniques, research and industry best practice and the support of experts with a proven record of delivering trusted advice that delivers value.

Get in touch

For more information about our vehicle-track service teams around the world complete the 'Contact us' form on this page or email us direct: [email protected] 

UK trials of wheel/rail adhesion technology

UK trials of wheel/rail adhesion technology

Ricardo’s Track Consultancy team were closely involved in a trial on the UK network throughout October 2019 that could improve future service performance in adverse autumnal conditions.

Read more

Why is the vehicle-track interface so important?

The vehicle–track interface is the area of contact between the train's wheels and the fixed rail (also known as the wheel-rail interface).

The area of a wheel in direct contact with the rail at any given time is very small - perhaps the size of a large coin - compared to the area for a rubber tyre on a road surface. This smaller contact area means less friction, giving rail its renown for energy efficiency.

Given the high stresses involved, the design and management of this interface is a specialist area, with the focus on helping to optimise performance and safety, and also reduce the costs of maintenance for wheel and track assets alike.