Railway Engineering

By Connor Vettas-Young

What is railway engineering

Railway engineering is a multi-faceted engineering discipline dealing with the design, construction and operation of all types of railway systems. It encompasses a wide range of engineering disciplines, including civil engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering and production engineering. A great many other engineering sub-disciplines are also called upon.

the history of railway engineering

With the advent of the railways in the early nineteenth century, a need arose for a specialized group of engineers capable of dealing with the unique problems associated with Railway engineering. As the railways expanded and became a major economic force, a great many engineers became involved in the field, probably the most notable in Britain being Richard Trevithick, George Stephenson and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Today, railway systems engineering continues to be a vibrant field of engineering, with many major projects such as the Channel Tunnel in progress.

The channel tunnel

The Channel Tunnel is the longest undersea tunnel in the world. The section under the sea is 38km long. The three tunnels, each 50km long, were bored at an average 40m below the sea bed, and link Folkestone in Kent to Coquelles in Pas-de-Calais.


Eurotunnel shuttles, Eurostar and national freight trains run in the two single track and single direction tunnels. These are connected to a central service tunnel by cross-passages situated every 375m. The service tunnel allows access to maintenance and emergency rescue teams and serves as a safe haven if passengers need to be evacuated in an incident. The service tunnel is a road tunnel used by electric and diesel-powered vehicles. Air pressure is higher in the service tunnel to prevent the ingress of smoke in case of a fire in one of the rail tunnels.

The two rail tunnels are 7.6m in diameter and 30m apart. Each rail tunnel has a single track, overhead line equipment (catenary) and two walkways (one for maintenance purposes and the other for use in the event of an emergency evacuation and on the side nearest the service tunnel). The walkways are also designed to maintain a shuttle upright and in a straight line of travel in the unlikely event of a derailment.

Maglev Trains

Maglev (derived from magnetic levitation) is a method of propulsion that uses magnetic levitation to propel vehicles with magnets rather than with wheels, axles and bearings. With maglev, a vehicle is levitated a short distance away from a guide way using magnets to create both lift and thrust. High-speed maglev trains promise dramatic improvements for human travel if widespread adoption occurs.


Maglev trains move more smoothly and somewhat more quietly than wheeled mass transit systems. Their non-reliance on traction and friction means that acceleration and deceleration can surpass that of wheeled transports, and they are unaffected by weather. The power needed for levitation is typically not a large percentage of the overall energy consumption

Worlds Fastest Train

AGV Italo

AGV Italo is the first train in the AGV Series which entered into service in April 2012. It has a maximum operational speed of 360kmph.

The train broke a record speed of 574.8kmph in April 2007.

Considered to be the most modern train in Europe, AGV Italo was built by Alstom. The train currently runs on the Napoli - Roma - Firenze - Bologna - Milano corridor.

The train complies with the European TSI interoperability standard, which includes safety, reliability and availability, health, environmental protection and technical compatibility.

ETR 575 AGV ITALO (Nola Interporto - Bologna c.le)

Future of UK rail

  • The Government announced £1.4 billion investment in the rail network, including a £20 million fund for new stations
  • The Government agreed to fund four new stations: Lea Bridge station in London, Ilkeston station in Derbyshire, Newcourt station in Devon and Pye Corner station in Newport
  • The Government agreed to examine re-opening the Lewes to Uckfield railway line in Sussex
  • We ran events including a fascinating walk along the 'missing' railway line between Bedford and Sandy, where we brought together many supporters of Railways Fit for the Future