"A Little Sand in the Right Place Works Wonders"

09 November 2017

Ricardo’s Track Consultancy team features prominently in the November 2017 edition of Rail Engineer in their profile of an industry research project exploring how the operation of sanders on rolling stock can be improved to enhance braking performance.

Sand has long been used by the rail industry to improve braking performance in poor conditions such as during heavy leaf fall. In many cases, vehicles are fitted with sandboxes to disperse sand onto the tracks as they pass over them.

This objective of this research project, initiated by the UK’s Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) was to look at how the distribution of sand from trains could be optimised to improve performance in low adhesion conditions.

“It has been suggested that variable discharge rates (more sand at higher speeds) and/or distributed sanders (more sanders spread along the train) might further reduce the risk of adhesion-related incidents. This begs many questions. How much sand? How many more sanders? And on which axles should they be mounted?


This is a complex, multi-dimensional issue. Whilst some evaluation can be done with simulations, testing is still required to optimise the solution. The testing would be complex with so many variables. A test train would require a number of sanders spread down the train and each sander needs to be capable of having its sanding rate varied and having each sander isolated. Moreover, poor adhesion has to be simulated predictably.


A tall order? Possibly, yet it is exactly what RSSB is doing in research project T1107.”


- Rail Engineer, November 2017