Welcome to Track 21

Railway Track for the 21st Century

This site is no longer maintained. The research undertaken in Track21 is being taken forward and extended through the Track to the Future programme. A summary of the key findings from Track21 was presented to Network Rail on 22nd July 2015. Publications continue to arise from the programme and will be linked from the Track to the Future site.

Track 21 is a prestigious £3.1M EPSRC Programme Grant bringing together academics from the Universities of Southampton, Birmingham and Nottingham and key industry players.

Our aim is to develop a fundamental and linked understanding of the engineering, economic and environmental performance of railway track that will provide the science needed to underpin a radical overhaul in techniques for railway track design, construction and maintenance.


The key research challenges and objectives through which the vision will be realised are to:

  • develop much improved understandings of the complex mechanisms of railway track behaviour governing stiffness, robustness, longevity, and noise and vibration performance;
  • integrate these understandings to optimise the engineering, environmental and economic performance of track systems; and
  • apply them to create step changes in track system performance that will bring about reduced deterioration rates and maintenance frequencies while mitigating the environmental effects of noise, vibration and materials use. Increasing the time between maintenance cycles will reduce whole-life costs and improve timetable reliability, giving financial, environmental and customer service benefits. The understandings gained will be applied to both ballasted track and more highly engineered track systems, and tools for reliable whole-life assessment developed.