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Long exposure of light trails from a passing train

Over the past five decades, BCRRE has grown to become an internationally recognised centre with world-leading expertise in areas including railway control systems, cyber security, power systems, climate resilience, sustainable traction systems and aerodynamics, while its flagship hydrogen train project, was showcased at the COP26 global summit last year.

This year, BCRRE is co-hosting the World Congress on Railway Research (WCRR) – the largest global event in the field - focusing on the theme of ‘Reshaping our railways post-pandemic’. With a long and established pedigree, the Congress was established in 1994 and brings together the global railway community to champion technical development, advocate collaboration and inspire the next generation of rail professionals.

50 years young superimposed over a railway tunnel

We are BCRRE, 50 years young. And this is us. Here we have 3,000 square metres of working space, laboratories, crazy cool machinery, and these guys.

This woman solves problems. That guy drives trains. - I do.

We teach you all about railway engineering. It can look like this or something like this. You'll hear technical terms such as Dr. Yellow, fishplate, headway, the four foot. We like a good challenge and thrive being first to all sorts of things.

The first hydrogen train on the UK mainline tracks, that's us. The first to offer a level 7 degree apprenticeship in rail and rail systems engineering, us again. Winning the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, done. The first railway focus group to work in all non Arctic continents, well, you get the idea.

Oh, wait. We're also first with accredited BEng and MEng Rail Engineering degrees. OK, what else?

We do all kinds of research.

Oh, yes. We research stuff. And by that, I mean tonnes of stuff.

We issued our first ever paper way back in the 1970s. Now we issue circa 100 per year. Easy.

We're the only Russell Group University with a further education college and it focuses on rail. We've had three spin out companies. We've collaborated with big influential companies and companies that aren't so big yet, which led us to win around 30 awards.

More like 40.

All right. 40 awards. Did we mention that we have a railway station on campus? Well, we're the only University across the whole UK to have one.

We're BCRRE. We're 50 years young and we're just getting started.

BCRRE plays a key part in that global network. Its international partnerships with both academia and industry include work to simulate new metro systems in Chinese cities to optimise their operations to using its expertise with hydrogen and battery systems to develop new traction power systems for railways in low- and middle-income countries.

Closer to home, BCRRE has recently partnered with UK-based company Rock Rail to accelerate research into cyber security through BCRRE’s Centre of Excellence in Digital Systems. BCRRE also works closely with partners Siemens Mobility, and a project is underway to deliver a multi-million pound rail research and innovation facility at Siemens Mobility’s manufacturing site in Goole.

50 years is a significant milestone for BCRRE and we’re proud of how the Centre has grown, in terms of the research and education we deliver and our links and engagement with the global rail industry, with companies of all shapes and sizes. BCRRE is looking forward to playing an important role in leading innovation and supporting recovery as we start to take stock of post-pandemic priorities for the sector.

Professor Clive Roberts, Director of the BCRRE and Head of the School of Engineering at the University of Birmingham

The Centre was founded in 1972 and an early research focus was on the potential for train track to be used in automatic train-control systems to transmit command data. Over the intervening years, the BCRRE has grown to employ more than 180 staff and establish collaborations across the globe with research taking place in all non-arctic continents.

Over the years RSSB and BCRRE have successfully worked together on a wide range of research topics, including the future of traffic operations, modelling decarbonisation options, and condition monitoring. The new knowledge delivered particularly in these areas has been extremely influential in shaping progress in GB and beyond. At present the RSSB and BCRRE teams are working very closely on all the preparatory work needed to co-host the 13th World Congress on Rail Research, taking place in Birmingham in June 2022. This will provide to our two organisations and the rest of the GB research and innovation community the best platform to showcase capabilities and to learn from others.

Luisa Moisio, Director of Research and Development at Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB)

  • For media enquiries please contact Tony Moran, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0)7827 832312.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • BCRRE is Europe’s largest academic-based group delivering railway science and education. With over 180 academics, researchers, and professional support staff, BCRRE provides world-class research and thought leadership within railways, and offers an expanding portfolio of high-quality education programmes, including Rail and Rail Systems Level 6- and 7-degree apprenticeships. In 2018 BCRRE became the lead partner in the £92m UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN). Watch our ‘We are BCRRE’ video and contact us at