Research to meet European society’s future railway transport needs

Meeting society’s needs for economic, reliable and sustainable transport has received a boost with the launch of a 5.4M€ railway infrastructure research project at The University of Sheffield

Railways play a major role in meeting society’s need for economic, reliable and sustainable transport, but for them to continue doing this depends on finding new and better ways of maintaining and developing railway infrastructure. High speed lines make the news but millions of people depend on lesser used and older routes that can be overlooked until services deteriorate or there’s a threat of closure.

Better assessment of the economic value of lines (for example the value of the jobs they provide access to) together with technologies tailored to achieve a viable future for lesser used lines are the focus of a new EU funded project led by University of Sheffield. The 5.4M€ NeTIRail-INFRA (Needs Tailored Interoperable Railway Infrastructure) programme is bringing together companies and universities from eight EU countries to answer the question of how technology tailored to the needs of lesser used lines can increase their viability and boost their role in meeting society’s transport needs.

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Key aspects of the project include:

• Track infrastructure design and maintenance optimised for particular routes and track types
• Tailored overhead line power supply infrastructure providing solutions for low cost electrification
• Low cost monitoring interfaced with railway technology to optimise operation, maintenance and renewal of the infrastructure
• Assessment of economic and societal impact of rail transportation to examine costs, benefits and viability of lines and their investment decisions
• Developing software for rail system operators outside the project to apply the methods developed to their own lines

Researchers met at University of Sheffield to launch the project. The research targets rail infrastructure reliability/availability increased by around 20%, capacity utilisation of 70-90%, and recurrent costs down 25-45% relative to current levels. In addition to its impact on transport, it is intended that the skills developed in the project will allow European businesses and researchers to export their knowledge to wider markets, supporting EU competitiveness and growth.