These are exciting times for railways. Society relies on railway systems more than ever before: they have become integral to how people live and economies grow in the 21st Century. With an estimated £50bn being put into the sector, investment in railways has never been higher. 25,000 jobs are anticipated to be generated, and as well as more capacity, the travelling public will experience reduced journey times.
Despite these significant investments in infrastructure, many of the technologies being installed, particularly in the command, control and communications domain, are notably outdated, often to the point of obsolescence even before installation. On a day-to-day basis, the British railway system struggles as a result of high utilisation, aged infrastructure and the complication of interfacing many different generations of systems. As railways age they begin to exhibit overcrowding, poor reliability and increased complexity.
The future of railways
The British railway industry has, with the support of the Departments for Transport and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, set out clear strategies for making the UK a global leader in railway innovation, technology development and roll-out. This will not only further increase the quality of the British railway system for the travelling public, but also allow the UK supply chain to significantly increase its export market.
A new partnership
In July 2017, a partnership between the rail supply industry and a consortium of eight universities secured £92 million to fund research aimed at establishing the UK as a world-leading centre of railway excellence.
The partnership – part of the newly-created UK Railway Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) - won £28.1 million funding from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). It followed a bid successfully led by the University of Birmingham. The funding will be boosted by £64 million of support from 17 industrial partners including Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier Transportation.
The funding will be used to create three world-class centres of excellence, which will focus on: Digital Systems located at the University of Birmingham, Rolling Stock and Infrastructure. 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.
Working with industry, we are innovating to bring about transformational change in railway technology around the world. We are delivering a step change in railway systems capability and are securing a world-leading position in the sector. We are delivering jobs, growth and inward investment nationally and internationally. At the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, we are having impact across the globe to enhance the future success of railways as a safe, fast, high capacity and environmentally and customer friendly transport mode.
Director of the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education
Director of the Birmingham International Railway Academy (BIRA) and Professor of International Railway Benchmarking
Department of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering
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