Minister for Transport opens new rail research building at the University of Birmingham

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Andrew Stephenson, Minister of State for Transport, has formally opened a new purpose-built centre at the University of Birmingham, designed to deliver specialist research in railway engineering.

The Centre of Excellence for Digital Systems was delivered via a partnership between the University and the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) with investment from Research England. Facilities include cab simulators, and a signalling control centre, as well as project labs, and other technologies that will enable high quality, fast-paced research, through proof-of-concept to demonstration and testing.

Opening the building, Mr Stephenson said: “This new Centre will have a pivotal role in ensuring our country’s proud rail engineering past continues into a bright future.

“It is vital that UK is front and centre of transport innovation as we Build Back Better from the pandemic, and along with the National College for Advanced Transport and Infrastructure, the Centre will provide valuable training, new skills and real opportunities for people entering the sector for the first time.

“We will continue to work closely with the Centre as it strives to attract a diverse range of talent to the transport sector.”

Mr Stephenson’s portfolio includes responsibility for skills in the transport sector and also HS2. As part of his trip to Birmingham, he also visited the National College for Advanced Transport and Infrastructure (NCATI).

In May NCATI became part of the University of Birmingham group, heralding a special collaboration between higher and further education. NCATI will draw on the University’s internationally-recognised rail expertise and - together with strong industry and a wide range of partners -  will help address the sector’s skills gaps producing a new generation to lead Britain’s future rail, transport and infrastructure workforce.

University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood said: “I am delighted to welcome the Minister to our campus to experience our rail research and see how we work closely with the rail industry.  We have an international reputation for our research and development strengths in this sector and, in partnership with UKRRIN, we are set to make significant progress in applying digital technologies to the UK’s railways.

“Through our collaboration with the National College for Advanced Transport and Infrastucture we will be using our expertise in railway education to deliver high-level technical skills into the industry.”

Professor Clive Roberts, Head of the School of Engineering at the University of Birmingham, said: “The Centre of Excellence for Digital Systems is set to deliver a step-change in the use of digital technology across the entire rail sector. It is rapidly becoming the ‘go to’ centre for collaboration with our industrial partners to design, test and integrate these technologies and bring them to market. With the opening of these new facilities, we’re looking forward to further developing and delivering our world-class expertise alongside our sector partners.”

Notes to editor:

  • For media enquiries please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0)781 3343348.
  • 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.
  • The National College for Advanced Transport & Infrastructure (NCATI) is a Further Education college and a subsidiary of the University of Birmingham. Based at state-of-the-art campuses in Birmingham and Doncaster, the College is headed up by Principal, Ian Fitzpatrick.
  • The College has been established to provide inclusive and high-quality education and training that meet the needs of learners, industry partners and local communities, supporting local, regional and national economic growth. Working collaboratively with partners and the University of Birmingham, the College provides a lifelong learning opportunity supported by railway, transport and infrastructure qualifications and competencies.
  • NCATI is a new institution, replacing the Further Education Corporation of The National College for Advanced Transport and Infrastructure, which dissolved on 29 April 2021.