RISEN – Rail Infrastructure Systems Engineering Network

RISEN - Rail Infrastructure Systems Engineering Network - received funding from the European Union's H2020 Programme under grant agreement No 691135. From 2016 to 2021, RISEN developed a research network and skill mobility to improve rail infrastructure systems resilience towards future demand, extreme events and climate change.

Research impact statement

RISEN received funding from the European Union's H2020 Programme under grant agreement No 691135. From 2016 to 2021, RISEN developed a research network and skill mobility to improve rail infrastructure systems resilience towards future demand, extreme events and climate change.

This is also in line with United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (Climate Action, Sustainable Cities, and Responsible Production) as well as the goals of the European Union Transport White Paper, where the accessibility and reliability of transport services is mentioned along the need to develop Mobility Continuity Plans to prepare for the disruption to transport services.

RISEN has addressed both issues and provides not only practical engineering solutions and policy guidance but importantly also technical capabilities and resources, trained staff and research network for research synergy. It is equally important to note that the system level problems are not country-specific or even regionally and internationally important, as spill-over effects are Europe-wide. Thus, the issues need to be addressed both at local and international level to be able to propose sustainable measures to mitigate the adverse effects to staff mobility and talent development.

Of significant and critical demand, this unique capability and resources underpin the two important EU level rail transport sector challenges specified in the transport White Paper.

RISEN has resulted in significant national, European and international impacts as illustrated fully in Figure 1. In fact, over 50 RISEN scholars have already contributed to over 200 peer-reviewed open-access scientific articles (130 high-impact journal articles and 95 conference papers). These outcomes will strengthen research relationship and collaboration, which will expand the ground-breaking research frontiers in rail infrastructure resilience. Some initial outcomes have already been recognised as ‘excellent innovations’ by the EU Innovation Radar in March 2018.

RISEN project recognises strong need for research exchange, skill mobility, talent and capability development in relation to railway engineering in general. Within rail industry, there have been significant demands globally to fill in the knowledge gap because baby boomers are leaving the workforce. It is estimated that there will be a need to fill over 5,000 railway positions in the next five years just within the UK alone. In addition, a strong drive to innovate railway systems for future cannot be underestimated as it requires highly-developed research skills, which are often trained during postgraduate and doctoral studies. Thus, RISEN has enhanced research and innovation human resources by utilising research mobility and synergy. Integration of systems approach and rail research skills has contributed to each participant’s personal development and career perspective, in addition to social network and avenues accessing to future employers, stakeholders, and even prospective customers.

Since 2016, RISEN has already supported and sponsored over 50 scholars to build their last-long research network through research secondments with our world-class partners including University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tsinghua University, Southwest-Jiaotong University, Japan Railway Technical Research Institute, and University of Wollongong, Iranian University of Science and Technology, and University of Sao-Paulo. Both advanced scientific knowledge and capabilities stemmed from RISEN will contribute towards rethinking rail transport for cleaner and more inclusive mobility.

Rail customers

Rail users can be comfortable and confident of their safety when travelling with rail services. They can experience seamless and reliable journeys and, in the case of a disruption or emergency, they can be sure that infrastructure failure recovery carries out for them in a reasonable and timely manner. To this extent, the various rail network operators adopt technical recommendations based on research and innovation outcomes. RISEN project can serve this function by providing evidence-based technical advice to the operators so that they can also inform the rail transport system users in a more constructive way. Many of the anticipated improvements to aging rail infrastructure systems are largely dependent on the degree to which the recommendations on short- and long-term maintenance are translated into concrete activities. Additional impacts on rail transport system users can be also identified. The cross-disciplinary research can potentially reduce delays and waiting times. The close relationships with stakeholders such as rail users (passengers and freights) and operators translate research into practice and provide practical feedbacks for further improving rail infrastructure research within Europe and worldwide.


RISEN is to offer a holistic picture of the European Rail Transport System and the opportunities the holistic view offers. Infrastructure maintenance intervention cannot be enforced, but it can be effectively enhanced through the capitalisation of advanced monitoring systems and infrastructure resilience design. When traditional service providers (typically a rail network operator) fail to integrate the service provision to broader transport network, opportunities may exist for new business cases. RISEN outcomes can identify further strategic research and innovation needs for enhancing future rail capacity and adaptability to climate change and extreme events. They improve the existing research potential in Europe and worldwide where systems thinking approach has not sufficiently been integrated to the fundamental concept of optimised asset management.

Freight Network

RISEN can provide practical guideline for advanced condition monitoring where the effective freight monitoring can result in substantial time and cost savings in freight transport. The preventative measure to mitigate the risk of prolonged extreme weather conditions or natural disasters on rail infrastructure can prevent significant losses. This is because freight logistics operators have limitations in their flexibility to switch the transport mode. The proposed summer courses do not only transfer the knowledge back to industry quickly, but they also generate further discussions for further research and development.

Infrastructure managers

The impact of RISEN is very substantial. This is because the full exposure of rail infrastructure resilience and advanced condition monitoring enables a better understanding of the critical maintenance, renewal and retrofit needs. When overall control of maintenance resources is within a single provider (typically, when a Ministry of Infrastructure can influence the resource allocation across transport modes), the guidebooks provided by RISEN can offer practical solutions as to how to respond to changing operational demand, weather condition, and risks towards extreme events in an optimal way. In the case of disintegrated maintenance services (typically by rail transport mode or a rail network), the increased interaction through RISEN dissemination activities and guidebooks offers an evidence-based platform of discussion and exchange of information and knowledge including cross-disciplinary and systems considerations. RISEN provides the up-to-date research outcomes and technologies to monitor and mitigate emerging risks.

National, International and European policy makers

The overall impact of RISEN is a result of several outcomes each RISEN activity produces. The biggest impact is the fact that for the first time a decision-maker can easily access the variety of updated information and research outcomes generated. On the one hand, the compilation of impacts of extreme weather and natural and man-made hazards on European rail transport system with the short-term and long-term solutions can be used as a guideline for insurance risk and investment planning in the future. This is of relevance, when contrasted with information of costs at International, European and national scales, obtained from the INNOTRACK project. For decision-makers, this can provide basis of cost-benefit assessment of investment options, taking into consideration the systems level impacts of the planned investment alternatives. These impacts can dramatically change the ways of interaction in the public-private-people context. The fact that the future changes in weather for 2040 and 2070 (forecasted in the other project) also assist in guideline on the resilience to climate change and the long-term impact mitigation. Such a planning horizon has a major advantage for the decision-makers and enable long-term usefulness of the RISEN project.

European partners

  1. University of Birmingham (UOB) (coordinator)
  2. Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI)
  3. University of Porto (UOP)
  4. Delft University of Technology (TUDelft)
  5. KTH Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)
  6. Tampere University of Technology (TUT)
  7. The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
  8. Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV)
  9. Brno University of Technology (BUT)
  10. MerMec France SARL (MerMec)
  11. Roadscanners Oy (RoadScanners)
  12. Evoleo Technologies Portugal (Evoleo LDA)
  13. Evoleo Technologies Germany (Evoleo Gmbh)
  14. Loram Finland Oy (Loram)

International partners

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • University of California Berkeley
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Tsinghua University
  • Southwest-Jiaotong University
  • University of Wollongong
  • Iranian University of Science and Technology
  • University of Sao-Paulo
  • China Academy of Railway Science
  • Japan Railway Technical Research Institute


University of Birmingham

Dr Sakdirat Kaewunruen, Project Coordinator
Telephone: +44 (0) 1214 142 670
Email: s.kaewunruen@bham.ac.uk
Address: New Engineering Building, Room 109.
Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education
School of Engineering
The University of Birmingham
Edgbaston B15 2TT UK


This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 691135.

Graphic combining the RISEN project graphic on the left with the EU stars on the right

For more information about the RISEN project, please visit the RISEN2raileu website.