The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education hosted the 2016 IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Rail Transportation (ICIRT) at the University of Birmingham on the 23-25 August 2016.

This second instalment of the global conference, previously held in Beijing, China in 2013, provided a forum for experts in industry and academia to showcase and discuss the latest research in intelligent new technologies, and their impacts on the 4Cs: Capacity, Carbon emissions, Cost and Customer satisfaction.

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During the course of the conference, speakers from 18 countries delivered more than 70 presentations representing the latest in intelligent rail. This international presence was noted by speaker Keith Dierkx, one of IBM’s top leaders and transportation experts, who congratulated the centre on the “impressive” global attendance shortly after his keynote address. He introduced the conference by presenting a vision of the future – a multi-modal and insight driven railway achieved through cognitive computing.

Andrew Simmons, Chief Systems Engineer for the Digital Railway Development Team, also looked to the future as he opened the second day of the conference. He emphasised that the key to successfully achieving the Digital Railway wasn’t in the technology – which already exists for the most part – but in building shared understanding to deliver the project outcomes.

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Held at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, the Gala Dinner provided opportunity for delegates to continue their discussions over dinner surrounded by tropical plants in the stunning glasshouses. As well as traditional presentations, workshops, discussions and networking, the conference provided attendee’s additional opportunities to explore BCRRE’s railway research.

Delegates were shown the UK’s first hydrogen powered locomotive, known as the ‘Hydrogen Pioneer’ - a narrow gauge locomotive, developed and demonstrated by the University of Birmingham in 2012, and redesigned every year for entry into the IMechE Railway Challenge. This version represents the latest technology, using a PEM fuel cell, battery and supercapacitor storage drive chain; silicon carbide transistors (their first application in hybrid vehicles); and power electronics designed and built at the University.

IEEE Conference Hydrogen Barge

To conclude the conference, delegates were offered transport to the train station, via canal boat. This peaceful excursion departed from the canal next to the University’s train station, travelling alongside the track to the city centre and offering beautiful views of the water and surrounding wildlife

Dr Lei Chen, Lecturer, Railway Traffic Management, said:

“With the support from IEEE, the ICIRT 2016 brings more than 120 attendees from railway academia and industry all over the world, to discuss the challenges and solutions for delivery of more sustainable railway systems in the future. ICIRT will continue to provide a forum platform to link railway academia and industry partners globally.”

BCRRE would like to thank the IEEE, Beijing Jiaotong University and the IEEE Intelligent Transportation Systems Society for supporting the conference. Thank you also to all of the conference speakers, delegates and organisers for making such a conference possible.