Dr Christopher Ward

BEng(Hons), PhD, CEng, MIMechE, FHEA

  • Senior Lecturer in Control Systems Engineering


Chris Ward is a Lecturer in the School of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering. This appointment followed a period of time as a Research Associate with the Control Systems Group. His current research work is concentrated on control and fault detection in railway vehicle based problems, particularly focusing on the critical wheel/rail contact area.

Work has been funded by RRUK (Rail Research UK) and RSSB with the emphasis on finding in-service methods for estimating such things as the wheel/rail profile contact geometry, areas of low adhesion and latterly on investigating ideas for reducing the cost of vehicles using 'design for control'. Use is made in this work of advanced filtering methods, system identification, signal analysis and advanced/robust model based control.

Prior to moving to Loughborough University Dr Ward received his PhD from the University of Liverpool in automotive engineering, focusing on automotive powertrain controls. This involved the development of rapid prototyping methods to generate robust controllers in a short time frame.


Dr Ward, who is originally from Lincoln, studied for a BEng degree at the University of Liverpool in Mechanical Engineering, graduating in 2003.  After graduating he took a role as a Production Engineer at Erlson Engineering (Hampson Group) in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, where he worked in a team planning new production lines for automotive components.

He returned to the Department of Engineering at the University of Liverpool in late 2004 to pursue a PhD in automotive powertrain control.  This work involved the use of system identification to produce relevant models directly from engine dynamometers and the development of a linear/nonlinear robust control design algorithm.

Dr Ward became a Research Associate with the Control Systems Group in the School of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering, Loughborough University, in early 2009.  His first research project was funded by RRUK and was concerned with developing a real time method for the estimation of the wheel/rail profile in railway applications.  His subsequent project was funded by RSSB and was concerned with detecting areas of low adhesion in the wheels/rail contact of railway vehicles in real time.

Dr Ward was appointed as a Lecturer in the School of Electronic, Electrical and System Engineering in early 2012, where he is continuing with work based around condition monitoring of railway vehicles and developing ideas for a more 'mechatronic' railway vehicle of the future.

Professional affiliations

  • Chartered Engineer, Member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Current projects

REPOINT 2: Funded by the Enabling Innovation Team, this project is looking to build a scale demonstrator of a completely novel concept in railway track switch (point) that was developed in the REPOINT 1 and is now the subject of a number of patents.

Trolleybus pantograph active guidance: This is a PhD project looking into the control and sensing requirements for active control of trolleybus pantographs for a range of system benefits such as simplifying the overhead infrastructure.

High redundancy actuation: This is a PhD project looking into further developing the concept of producing acutuators with 'graceful' failure characteristics.

Low adhesion detection: This PhD project is looking to further develop the low adhesion detection concepts developed in RSSB project T959 as highlighted below.

Previous projects

The half-cost train - design for control: This project was funded by RRUKA and looked into the improvements that reconsidering the architecture of a railway vehicle guidance mechanism from purely passive to mechatronic (actively controlled) could bring to key indicators such as: cost; reliability; performance; and maintainability. This followed the thinking applied to aerospace systems (both military and civilian) where 'fly-by-wire' is the norm and brings huge benefits. The project showed a reduced impact of the vehicle on the infrastructure but also pointed to future less tangible benefits such as simplified mechanical systems, vehicle based planning and route selection.

RSSB project T959: Onboard Detection of Low Adhesion. The project is further investigation a novel concept for detection of low adhesion events in the wheel/rail interface (project T614) in real time. The research was driven by events where rail vehicles that are braking have greatly increased stopping distances, the most common cause of which is the ‘leaves on the line’ phenomena. The aim of the method is to detect areas of low adhesion in real time so that rail vehicle operation can be adjusted accordingly. The project showed and demonstrated (via application to 'blind' high fidelity multi-body simulation data):

  • The sensing requirements and several associated processing techniques that can detect low levels of adhesion arising from the normal running of a rail vehicle

The next stage is to apply these ideas to data collected from instrumented vehicles.

RRUK B8: Dynamic Estimation of the Wheel/Rail Profile – The project was concerned with dynamically finding the wheel rail profile as an alternative to physical measurement, reducing the out of service time of a train set. This investigated advanced filtering and recursive system identification techniques for the application.

PhD project (University of Liverpool)

J-Spectral Factorisation for Automotive Powertrain Controls – Development of a linear/nonlinear robust control design algorithm for automotive powertrain applications. The method utilises a combined system identification and Newton iteration method of J-spectral factorisation. Engine models were generated by system identification using data generated from dynamometers through the dSPACE system, reducing costly modelling time

Undergraduate teaching

  • ELB004 - Control Systems Design
  • ELC041 - Advanced Control


  • Final year project student supervision
  • PhD student project supervision

Selected publications

  • Hubbard, PD ,Ward, CP ,Dixon, R ,Goodall, RM, “Real Time Detection of Low Adhesion in the Wheel/Rail Contact”, Proceedings of the IMechE Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit, November 2013, 227(6), pp. 623-634
  • Ward, CP, Goodall, RM, Dixon, R, Charles, GA, “Adhesion estimation at the wheel/rail interface using advanced model-based filtering”, Vehicle System Dynamics: international journal of vehicle mechanics and mobility, Online first publication, 24th July 2012, 1-20, 10.1080/00423114.2012.707782
  • Ward, CP, Weston, PF, Stewart, EJC, Li, H, Goodall, RM, Roberts, C, Mei, TX, Charles, G, Dixon, R, “Condition Monitoring Opportunities Using Vehicle-Based Sensors”, Proceedings of IMechE Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit, 225, 21st July 2010, pp.202-218
  • Ward, CP, Mei, TX, Hubbard, PD, Mirzapour, M, “Railway Vehicle Optimisation using the concept of “Design for Control””, accepted for The Second International Conference on Railway Technology: Research, Development and Maintenance to be held in Ajaccio, Corsica, France 8-11 April 2014, RW2014/2013/00281
  • Hubbard, PD, Ward, CP Dixon, R, Goodall, RM, “Models for Estimation of Creep Forces in the Wheel/Rail Contact Under Varying Adhesion Levels”, IAVSD 2013, 23rd International Symposium on Dynamics of Vehicles on Roads and Tracks, 19-23 August 2013, Qingdao, China
  • Hubbard, PD, Ward, CP Dixon, R, Goodall, RM, “Onboard, Real-Time Detection of Adhesion Levels in the Rail/Wheel Contact”, Advances in Risk and Reliability Technology Symposium, 21 - 23 May, 2013, Loughborough
  • Hubbard, PD, Ward, CP Dixon, R, Goodall, RM, “Verification of Model-Based Adhesion Estimation in the Wheel-Rail Interface”, 2013 Prognostics and System Health Management Conference, PHM-2013 Milan 8-11 September, 2013
  • Hubbard, PD, Ward, CP Dixon, R, Goodall, RM, "Real Time Detection of Low Adhesion in the Wheel/Rail Contact", http://rruka.org.uk/rruka-annual-conference-2012-conference-proceedings/, RRUKA Annual Conference, The Royal Society, London, 7th November 2012
  • Tsunashima, H, Ward, CP, Goodall, RM, "Condition Monitoring of Railway Vehicle Dynamics", STECH '12, Green Growth and Railway System, The International Symposium on Speed-up, Safety and Service Technology for Railway and Maglev Systems, COEX, Seoul, South Korea, 17th September 2012
  • Ward, CP, Goodall, RM, Dixon, R, Charles, G, "Detection of Low Adhesion in the Railway Vehicle Wheel/Rail Interface: Assessment of Multi-Bodied Simulation Data", 2012 UKACC International Conference on Control, Cardiff, UK, 3rd September 2012
  • Ward, CP, Goodall, RM, Dixon, R, Charles, G, "Use of real time creep force estimation data for assessment of low adhesion in the wheel/rail contact", The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), RCM 2011: The 5th IET conference on Railway Condition Monitoring and Non-Destructive Testing, Derby
  • Ward, CP, Goodall, RM, Dixon, R, "Contact Force Estimation in the Railway Vehicle Wheel-Rail Interface", Proceedings of the 18th World Congress, the International Federation of Automatic Control, Milano, Italy, 2011, p.p. 4398-4403
  • Ward, CP, Goodall, RM, Dixon, R, "Creep Force Estimation at the Wheel-Rail Interface", Proc. 22nd Symposium on Dynamics of Vehicles on Roads and Tracks, Manchester, UK, 2011, 978 1 905476