Developing an indirect structural health monitoring system for railway bridges

This studentship offers the opportunity for a highly motivated individual with a strong academic background to work toward revolutionising bridge damage monitoring systems through developing indirect inspection systems.

Start date
1 June 2021
3 years
Application deadline
Funding source
Departmental funded PhD position – Civil and Environmental Engineering
Funding information

The funding covers academic fees for UK/EU students. You will also receive a stipend of £15,500 per annum to cover your living expenses. Additional funding is available to present your work in a conference and for project related costs.


Considering the challenges facing railway industry due to ageing and deteriorating railway bridges and the cost of direct monitoring of bridge conditions, there are obvious merits in monitoring the condition of a bridge without instrumenting sensors directly on the bridge.

The general practice in infrastructure inspection is to have trained personnel inspect the infrastructure and form an opinion as to its condition, which can be inefficient, disruptive to traffic, costly and occasionally unsafe. In recent years, there have been significant efforts in instrumenting bridges and assessing the condition of the bridge using direct measurements. These methods are categorised as non-destructive damage assessment techniques, but they can be expensive given the number of sensors required and the maintenance of the data acquisition system. Given the number of railway bridges in the UK, it is also logistically difficult and expensive to instrument all the bridges in a railway network.

To address these challenges, indirect structural health monitoring techniques have been gaining momentum in recent years. Once of these methods is to use an instrumented vehicle to monitor and inspect the bridge while travelling at operational speed. In other words, the vehicle is acting as an actuator as well as a receiver.

The fundamental principle in indirect damage inspection is that damage causes changes in physical properties of the structure which results in altering the vibration behaviour of the structure. The challenge in indirect damage inspection methods is to identify and extract these changes from the measurements recorded on the travelling vehicle while it is driving over a damaged bridge at operational speed. This project aims to systematically study these changes using numerical and lab experiments on train-bridge interaction models and investigate mechanisms and methods to detect and localise damage in bridges using vehicle measurements.

Eligibility criteria

Applicants should have:

  • An MEng in civil, structural, mechanical or automotive engineering with a UK equivalent 2:1 classification or above.


  • A BEng in civil, structural, mechanical or automotive engineering with a UK equivalent 2:1 classification or above and an MSc degree in structural mechanics or structural engineering.

Applicants should also have an IELTS score of 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with no sub-test of less than 6.

How to apply

Applications should be sent through the Civil and Environmental Engineering PhD course page.

Applicants are required to send:

  • A cover letter explaining their interest in the project
  • A CV with relevant qualifications and prior expertise in areas relevant to the project
  • Relevant transcripts
  • The names and contact details of two referees. At least one reference should be from an individual with good knowledge of the applicant’s academic record, especially in projects/dissertations.

Interviews will be arranged for early December.

Civil and Environmental Engineering PhD

Application deadline

Contact details

Donya Hajializadeh
03 AA 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686637

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