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Professor Jan Lundberg, Luleå University of Technology, shows its own design an adjustable railway switch. View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Professor with rail solutions

Published: 8 April 2015

While the government is now spending billions on the Swedish railway system a professor at Luleå University of Technology is developing ideas for new railway switches. Jan Lundberg, professor of operations and maintenance technologies, and also Machine elements has developed no less than 14 new solutions to future switches, most of which yet is secret.

- What I am doing is an example of a way to design and eliminate the need for maintenance and it is the first thing a maintenance engineer should consider, says Jan Lundberg.


Last week, the government presented a major investment in operation and maintenance of the railway system. It means that critical components such as switches that cause bottlenecks in the system must be replaced. In this work, Luleå University of Technology and research in the operation and maintenance technology plays a key role. With 14 different solution concepts Professor Jan Lundberg is collaborating with the company Vossloh Nordic Switch Systems AB, a leading provider of switches and track technology.

There are large forces with bumps and bangs that deforms the track in a railway switch when a train running into it. The switch is wider with longer sleepers and have a larger area than the normal rail track. Tests that researchers have done shows that the rail switches buckle up, compared with the railway in general.

- When the train passes, firstly it presses down the railway track but when it enters into the railway switch it does not press down in the same way since the area is larger there, much like a garden flat, the larger it is, the smaller it drops down when you walk on it says Jan Lundberg.

Sleepers of steel

Sketch of sleepers in steel
Sketch of sleepers in steel for possible future use in railway switches

9 of 13 measurements in reality as well as samples made with the scale ballast sand and a model train set proves that the track often curl up in a switch. Another factor that may affect is the trains you use to align the rail switches. It lifts up and raking the gravel under the track to raise, but can not push down and eventually occur even then a dent. The solution to both these phenomena are sleepers of steel with side plates to hold it in position according to Jan Lundberg.

- Today concrete sleepers is used in switches but my idea is that they will be manufactured in steel, steel beams that has a square cross section. Steel is a stronger material than concrete, and then we can make them more narrow to minimize the area in the switches. This in turn should cause them to deform in the same way as plain rail line and that it thus becomes less impact and shock he says. The plan now is to work with the Swedish Transport Administration to manufacture a prototype and test it at full scale.

Adjustable points

Model of adjustable railway switch
Model of adjustable railway switch

Jan Lundberg has also constructed an adjustable railway switch. The solution is to adjust the switch position mechanically, so that you do not need to use the track alignment machines, by building a permanent adjusting mechanism into the switch with adjustable ground rod.


Jan Lundberg

Jan Lundberg, Professor

Phone: +46 (0)920 491748
Organisation: Operation and Maintenance, Operation, Maintenance and Acoustics, Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering


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