British Steel’s key role in the future of UK rail

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 17 Aug 2017

BRITISH Steel is playing an important role in a partnership between the rail supply industry and eight universities which has secured a £92 million funding package to establish the UK as a global centre for railway excellence.

The venture – part of the newly-created UK Railway Research and Innovation Network – has won £28.1 million of funding from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

It follows a bid successfully led by the University of Birmingham and the funding will be boosted by £64 million of support from 17 industrial partners including the Scunthorpe rail-maker, Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier Transportation.

Peter Smith, British Steel managing director for rail, said: “We are delighted to be working with our partners on this vital research initiative which will further enhance the UK’s reputation as a world leader in rail transport.

“Our research and development and rail technology experts have worked closely to support the bid and it’s exciting to know that, in partnership with our industrial and academic colleagues, British Steel will continue to play a leading role in creating and making products to improve rail networks across the globe. This is vital in making rail transport the preferred choice for its customer base – be they the travelling public or freight operators.”

MORE: Strong support for campaign to bring HS2 contract to Scunthorpe

The network will support delivery of the ambitious Rail Technical Strategy and is aligned with the aims of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

The funding will be used to create three linked world-class centres of excellence:

  • Digital Systems – located at the University of Birmingham
  • Rolling Stock – led by the University of Huddersfield in collaboration with the Newcastle and Loughborough
  • Infrastructure – led by the University of Southampton in collaboration with British Steel and other academic centres, including Sheffield

The latter will focus on the Rail Technical Strategy's vision for infrastructure. Research will be applied to develop a reliable and resilient seven-day railway with world-class asset management, increased capacity and reduced delays. The vision will be to optimise the whole-life, whole-system cost of infrastructure, considering investment, carbon and social factors such as noise and vibration.

Dr David Fletcher, director of the Rail Innovation and Technology Centre at University of Sheffield, said: “This is an exciting collaboration for academia and industry. We will play a key part in this research, using our expertise to power the future of railway innovation in the UK for years to come.”

With these world class centres of excellence, the UK rail supply industry will be poised to develop world-leading new technologies and products for trains, railway systems and infrastructure that will deliver a better, more reliable and efficient railway.

More: On track: British Steel follows up Doncaster rail donation with Birmingham boost

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “The UK’s world-renowned leadership in science, research and innovation is helping to solve a range of national and global challenges, and the breadth of the projects funded means this will continue.

“Through our Industrial Strategy and £4.7 billion investment for research and development, we're ensuring we capitalise on the great work taking place in universities across the UK and remain at the forefront of innovation.”

The initiative is being supported by a range of clients and stakeholders including Network Rail, HS2 Ltd, Transport for London, Rail North and the Department for Transport.

Dr Iain Roche, head of innovation at HS2 Ltd, said: “HS2 will be a transformative project for the UK rail sector. It will require world leading innovative approaches to delivering infrastructure projects alongside cutting-edge design.

“The formation of this UK network is great news and I’m absolutely sure it will help us bring the innovation required for HS2 to become reality.”

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