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Network Rail Fishplate and Rail Joint Redesign

L.B. Foster Rail Technologies was briefed to undertake a major project to totally redesign the range of fishplates and rail joints used across the UK rail network.


As one of Network Rail’s approved suppliers, L.B. Foster Rail Technologies was briefed to undertake a major project to totally redesign the range of fishplates and rail joints used across the UK rail network.

The project

Network Rail owns and operates over 20,000 miles of track across the UK. With such a vast network to manage, it is always on the lookout for ways to simplify and rationalise components.

Mat Holland is Head of Engineering at L.B. Foster Rail Technologies. He has been leading the project: “Network Rail commissioned us to do a thorough re-design of all mechanical, transition, emergency and insulated rail joints. These consisted of both four and six hole variants and were required across numerous rail sections and at 10 different ‘lift’ combinations for each. This resulted in a total requirement for 170 separate full rail assemblies to be modelled and drawn-up.”

The main drivers for the work package were a move towards standardising the product on materials and thicknesses. There was also an interest in transitioning to a metric fastening standard, so all hole sizes and tolerances were subject to review.

Finally, there was a structural assessment required, which yielded a complex transient FEA model to enable design verification.

Mat continues: “L.B. Foster Rail Technologies is a world leader in the design, manufacture, and supply of high-quality track products to the global rail markets. The outputs of this contract are comprehensive and as we now move towards receiving the supply tender, our design input places us in a strong bidding position.”

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    The standardisation and metrification of this product suite is a key initiative for Network Rail. We worked together with Mat and his team, managing to overcome a host of technical challenges in a timely manner with the minimum of fuss.

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