A partnership of rail industry suppliers and a consortium of eight universities has been awarded funding towards a £92m programme to establish a world-leading centre of railway excellence.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is contributing £28.1m from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) to support the newly created UK Railway Research & Innovation Network (UKRRIN), which will be combined with the sum of £64m pledged by 17 industrial partners, including Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier.

The partnership follows a successful bid led by the University of Birmingham.

UKRRIN are set to use the funding to aid the creation of three linked centres of excellence, which will act as the innovation network's primary research facilities.

A Digital Systems centre will be created at the University of Birmingham, which will focus on railway control and simulation, data integration and cybersecurity, condition monitoring and sensing, and improved methods for technology introduction.

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By GlobalData

The University of Huddersfield will collaborate with the universities of Newcastle and Loughborough to create the new Rolling Stock centre, which will focus primarily on high value systems, whole life asset optimisation and energy management.

Additionally, the Infrastructure centre will be led by the University of Southampton in collaboration with the universities of Sheffield, Loughborough, Nottingham and Heriot-Watt.

The new centres, together with existing UK rail test facilities, are intended to bring together the UK rail supply industry and academia to undertake world-leading rail-based research and innovation.

They are also expected to support the delivery of Rail Technical Strategy in accordance with the UK Government’s industrial strategy.

The new centres of excellence will help the UK rail supply industry to develop new technologies and products for trains, railway systems and infrastructure in order to deliver a better, more reliable and efficient railway network.

University of Birmingham vice-chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood said: “These are exciting times for railways, which have become integral to how people live and economies grow in the 21st century.

“UKRRIN gives British universities and rail industry partners the opportunity to shape the global future of railways.

“The University of Birmingham is renowned for its rail research, and innovations in railway control, command, and communication will be the key to significantly improve the quality of railway services.

“We’re looking forward to working with research and industry partners across the world to deliver innovation that establishes the UK as a world-leading centre of rail excellence.”

The initiative is being supported by several clients and stakeholders such as Network Rail, HS2, Transport for London (TfL), Rail North and the Department for Transport (DfT).

"With cross-industry collaboration like this forging ahead, the UK railway industry is in a great position to deliver HS2 and the digital railway."

In addition to Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens, the industrial partners supporting the programme over a 10-year period include IBM, Unipart Rail, SMRT, British Steel, Thales, Hitachi, AECOM, Aggregate Industries, Atkins, Pandrol and Progress Rail.

Alstom UK & Ireland managing director Nick Crossfield said: “UKRRIN is a fantastic initiative, bringing companies like Alstom together with universities to accelerate innovation in the railway.

“We are proud to be one of the leading private sector supporters of this project, involved right from the bid stage.

"With cross-industry collaboration like this forging ahead, the UK railway industry is in a great position to deliver HS2 and the digital railway.”

Image: UKRPIF funding will be used to create three linked centres of railway excellence. Photo: courtesy of University of Birmingham.