The UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) – a collaboration between the rail industry and eight universities – has been formally launched.
Working in partnership, the universities will create four new Centres of Excellence encompassing rolling stock, infrastructure, digital systems and testing.
The aim is to work with industry to develop new innovative solutions for the railway’s future challenges both in the UK and overseas and radically increase the country’s rail productivity and performance.
UKRRIN has been established following a successful £28m bid to the Higher Education Funding Council and has been backed by commitment from the rail industry to invest more than £60m in research, development and innovation activities at these centres over the next 10 years.
Rail minister Jo Johnson said: “We are investing in the biggest modernisation programme of our railways since Victorian times, delivering what passengers want – more frequent trains and quicker and more comfortable journeys.
“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.”
Professor Clive Roberts, director of the Birmingham Centre for Rail Research and Education at the University of Birmingham, added: “UKRRIN gives universities and rail industry partners the opportunity to shape the global future of railways.
“This launch is the official beginning of an innovative partnership, and we look forward to reinforcing the UK as the world-leading centre of rail innovation.”
Southampton University will lead the Centre of Excellence in Infrastructure, Birmingham University the Digital Systems Centre, Huddersfield University the Rolling Stock Centre and Network Rail and its Rail Innovation & Development Centres will lead on testing.