Research Facilities 


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NRF Road Rail Vehicle (RRV)

The Road/rail Infrastructure Monitoring System (RIMS) is currently being developed in collaboration with the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Systems and Industrial Engineering. This special and unique research equipment is funded by the National Research Foundation and the University of Pretoria as part of the National Equipment Programme.

The RIMS comprises a custom-built road/rail vehicle that can travel on both road and rail infrastructure. It will be equipped for condition monitoring, characterisation and the maintenance of road and rail infrastructure, as well as the measurement of vehicle dynamics. The RIMS will have four main measurement components: a global positioning system (GPS), high-accuracy light detection and ranging (LiDAR) to create digital elevation models, 360° video cameras and a sophisticated vehicle response measurement system (VRMS). The VRMS comprises a range of sensors that will measure the dynamic behaviour of the vehicle in response to the condition of the infrastructure.

The RRV can reach measuring speeds of 90 km/h and 120 km/h on rail and road, respectively, and will be used across disciplines by different departments. The vehicle and the proposed measurement system will be world class and unique, with high-impact research being carried out in the following fields:

  • Transportation logistics and the use of high-accuracy GPS data to improve route planning
  • Road condition monitoring and the use of telematics data to address a range of road/vehicle interaction issues
  • Vehicle dynamics measurements on road and rail to improve various aspects related to the design of road and rail vehicles
  • Track condition monitoring by using vehicle dynamics, optical data and machine learning

In the final development stage of the integrated measurement system, an autonomous system will be developed that can be installed on standard road and track vehicles to carry out the proposed measurements and stream the data to cloud storage. Software will be developed to analyse the data and produce road, rail and vehicle condition and performance index values for improvement and maintenance actions. The equipment is extremely versatile and will be able to perform condition monitoring on the South African road network, as well as the railway lines of Transnet Freight Rail and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).


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University of Pretoria Test Track

The Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Pretoria constructed a 30 m long railway test section on the University’s Experimental Farm (better known as the “Proefplaas”) in Pretoria. The track structure conforms with heavy haul track structure design requirements. 

The project was made possible with the help of civil engineering students and sponsorship from industry. 

The following topics can be researched at this facility:

  • Full-scale stress and strain tests in a controlled environment
  • The effect of moisture on the strength of the track foundation under loading
  • The evaluation of earthworks specifications under loaded conditions and with different moisture conditions
  • The evaluation of different foundation characterization methodologies and equipment. 

A special bogie, with a total loading capability of 80 tonnes, was manufactured for load application on the test track.


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Civil Engineering Laboratory 

The Chair in Railway Engineering has access to a range of tests and laboratory experiments that can be carried out in the Civil Engineering Laboratory. These tests include the following:

  • Standard sleeper bending tests to AREMA or any other standard specification
  • Full scale tests on sleeper components, i.e. rails, sleepers, pads and ballast
  • Static as well as dynamic fatigue tests
  • Testing of slab track components
  • Testing of USPs (under sleeper pads)
  • Special, non-standard tests, designed and configured to the request of the client


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