Enhancing the piston effect in underground railway tunnels

Daniel Cross, Ben Hughes, Derek Ingham, Lin Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


The air flows induced by train movement in tunnels can be used for the purposes of underground railway ventilation. The magnitude of such air flows depends strongly upon the blockage ratio (the ratio of the train and tunnel cross-sectional areas) of the train. This study investigates the impact on the generated air flows due to the alteration of the aerodynamic resistance of the train, as a means of varying the blockage ratio. The alteration in aerodynamic resistance was achieved by using an aerofoil at a variety of different angles of inclination. A two-dimensional computational fluid dynamics model of a train travelling through a tunnel was developed and validated using experimental data from literature. This model was then used to investigate the influence of an aerofoil upon the volume of displaced air and the effect upon the aerodynamic work done by the train (work done by the train due to air drag). The results of this study show that ventilating air flows can be increased by 3% using an aerofoil at a fixed angle of 10° without increasing aerodynamic work. Through using a combination of different angles during different phases of train motion, a maximum increase in air displacement of 8% can be achieved, while not increasing the aerodynamic work done by the train. This equates to the train generated air displacement delivering an extra 1.6m3s-1 of air supply during the period of train motion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-81
Number of pages11
JournalTunnelling and Underground Space Technology
Early online date6 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2017


  • piston effect
  • underground railways
  • ventilation


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