The UK is expected to become a world-leading centre of railway expertise after a £92 million partnership has been established between RSSB, the rail supply industry and eight universities. Funding will be used to create three research hubs to develop centres of excellence. It follows a successful bid led by the University of Birmingham. The partnership, part of the newly-created UK Railway Research and Innovation Network, has won £28.1 million funding from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Additional funding will be boosted by £64 million of support from 17 industrial partners including Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier Transportation. With these new centres of research it is hoped that the UK rail supply industry will be able to develop world-leading new technologies and products for trains, railway systems and infrastructure that will deliver a better, more reliable and efficient railway.
"With cross-industry collaboration like this forging ahead, the UK railway industry is in a great position to deliver HS2 and the digital railway."
Speaking about the collaboration was Richard Hunter, UK Managing Director at Bombardier Transportation: “We believe this is a significant opportunity for the UK to develop and coordinate a network of world class facilities and capabilities to further support developments within the rail industry.”
What will be the three areas of expertise?
A digital system centre will be located at the University of Birmingham. It will focus on railway control and simulation, data integration and cybersecurity, condition monitoring and sensing, and improved methods for technology introduction.
This area of expertise will be managed by the University of Huddersfield in collaboration with the University of Newcastle and Loughborough University. It will focus on high value rolling stock systems, whole life asset optimisation and through-life management, and energy management.
The University of Southampton will work with the Sheffield, Loughborough, Nottingham, and Heriot-Watt Universities. Along with the UK rail supply industry, the collaboration will be able to develop world-leading new technologies and products for trains, railway systems and infrastructure to deliver better, more reliable and efficient railways.
The initiative is being supported by several clients and stakeholders such as Network Rail, HS2, Transport for London (TfL), Rail North and the Department for Transport (DfT). In addition to Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens, the industrial partners supporting the programme over a 10-year period include IBM, Unipart Rail, SMRT, British Steel, Thales, Hitachi, AECOM, Aggregate Industries, Atkins, Pandrol and Progress Rail.
Passengers will directly benefit from the research leading to improved technology; a better infrastructure with increased reliability that can be more effectively managed; and new digital signalling systems that will allow additional trains to run on the network. The High Speed 2 project will also be an early beneficiary of the world-leading research.
Alstom UK & Ireland managing director Nick Crossfield said: “UKRRIN is a fantastic initiative, bringing companies like Alstom together with universities to accelerate innovation in the railway.
“We are proud to be one of the leading private sector supporters of this project, involved right from the bid stage. With cross-industry collaboration like this forging ahead, the UK railway industry is in a great position to deliver HS2 and the digital railway.”
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