The Institute of Railway Research (IRR) at the University of Huddersfield is now a Centre of Excellence for the new £90m UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN), launched at a special event in Westminster. The ultimate aim, pledges Rail Minister Jo Johnson, is to deliver the biggest modernisation programme since Victorian times, meaning more frequent trains and quicker and more comfortable journeys.
Within UKRRIN, the Institute of Railway Research’s task will be to develop a new generation of rolling stock that lasts longer, is more energy efficient and is less costly to maintain.
As leader of UKRRIN’S Centre of Excellence in Rolling Stock, the IRR will be the conduit for almost £30m of research funding. “It’s the largest contract that we have had so far and will lead to a real step change in our capabilities,” said the Institute’s Director, Professor Simon Iwnicki.
He was at the House of Commons for the official launch of UKRRIN, an event that saw representatives from the industry partners and universities meet MPs and officials from several Government departments in order to brief them on plans for developing the new research network and on projects that are under way.
UKRRIN has been established after a successful £28m bid to the Higher Education Funding Council for England to create four rail Centres of Excellence, backed by commitment from the rail industry to invest more than £60m in research, development and innovation activities at these Centres over the next ten years.
In addition to the Centre of Excellence in Rolling Stock, led by the University of Huddersfield – in partnership with Newcastle University and Loughborough University – there are also Centres of Excellence in Digital Systems, led by the University of Birmingham, and in Infrastructure, led by the University of Southampton. There is also a Centre of Excellence in Testing, to be led by Network Rail.
UKRRIN aims to build the capacity of the rail sector to develop, deliver and deploy new technologies, helping the UK maintain its position as a global leader.
A key role in UKRRIN means that the Institute at Huddersfield – based in its own purpose-built labs and offices – will equip itself for a big expansion in activity. The Institute already has facilities that include a £4.5m test rig that is exclusive in Europe. New equipment will include an extended range of full-scale advanced test rigs to accelerate the adoption of new technology for the next generation of rolling stock.
Professor Iwnicki said that the Centre would work closely with large manufacturers, leading to technological breakthroughs and boosting investment in UK manufacturing. It is also anticipated the centre will carry out collaborative research with smaller innovative firms that are entering the rail sector.
Commenting on the launch of UKRRIN, Rail Minister Jo Johnson said: “We are investing in the biggest modernisation programme of our railways since Victorian times. In doing so, we are utilising a range of new technologies across the network and Britain is now at the cutting edge of digital signalling, high speed transport and railway infrastructure.
“New centres of excellence, bringing together experts, universities and the wider rail industry will be essential in achieving our ambition to get all diesel-only trains off the track by 2040 as well as delivering the advanced railway network that passengers deserve.