Funding agreed for cutting-edge high-speed rail facility in Leeds, UK

Posted: 10 July 2019 | | No comments yet

The UK government is to contribute £11 million to create the Institute for High Speed Rail and System Integration (IHSRSI) at the University of Leeds – a world-class high-speed rail research facility which is hoped will revolutionise the way new railway systems are invented, developed and brought into service.

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Artist’s impression of the Institute of High Speed Rail and System Integration (plans will be subject to detailed planning approval) Credit: Atkins Architects, artist’s impression

To be located next to the Leeds City Region Enterprise Zone, and to become fully operational in 2021, the Institute will be part of an ambitious plan involving local authorities and businesses to position the City Region as a UK centre for rail engineering which will generate jobs and inward investment.

Cutting-edge facilities

At the heart of the Leeds’ Institute will be the capability to investigate rail systems as an integrated whole: measuring how train, track, power systems and signals interact as a unified system.

The cutting-edge facilities will result in research that will transform transport systems not only in the UK but across the world.

The government has contributed £11 million towards the capital costs of the project. A further £40 million has come from the University and rail industry partners, adding to £13 million from the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Deal.

high-speed rail

Professor Peter Woodward, Head of the Institute for High Speed Rail and System Integration (IHSRSI). Credit: University of Leeds

Professor Peter Woodward, Head of the IHSRSI, said: “The Institute will revolutionise the testing, commissioning and building of new trains, rail infrastructure and systems, both in the UK and overseas. The test facilities will place the Leeds City Region as a global leader in high-speed railway technology development, significantly enhancing the UK’s ability to develop, test and certify new railway technologies for the commercial export market.”

Peter continued: “The capabilities of the test facilities are of global significance and I’m very grateful for the significant support we have received from all the companies and organisations that have helped us over the last two years. It’s a great time to be in rail, and with the new capability that the Institute represents, the UK’s railway future is looking very bright both for industry and for passengers.”

At the heart of the IHSRSI will be three cutting-edge test facilities: a rig to accurately test rail vehicle performance under real-world conditions, an open-field test facility to simulate the forces on track, ballast and support structures, such as embankments, for both conventional and high-speed trains up to 400km/h, and a System Integration and Innovation Centre to allow investigations to be conducted into digital signalling, power systems and electro-magnetic interference.

Sir Peter Hendy CBE, Chair of Network Rail, said: “This new testing facility will be one of the most advanced in the world and will revolutionise the UK’s approach to high-speed rail system design and implementation. Not only will it reduce the number of issues we see on the operational railway, it will help to bring economic growth and jobs to the area for many years to come. Network Rail is keen to support this bold initiative by the University of Leeds.”

Jake Berry, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, said: “Improving transport for people across the North remains our priority so it is fitting that the research facilities at the University of Leeds’ IHSRSI, when developed, will revolutionise the transport system and benefit passengers by ensuring it is fit for the 21st century and beyond.”

The government’s support to the Leeds Institute has been allocated from the UK Research Partnership and Investment Fund (UKRPIF), administered by Research England to develop facilities that enable world-class research. Every £1 invested by the government requires double-match funding from non-public sources such as business or charities.

Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at the University of Leeds, said: “The real power of the Institute is that it has been designed with the rail industry, to help it address some of its big research questions. Working together with industry we will play a big role in future rail innovation. If you look at the government’s Industrial Strategy, never before has it been so important for universities to work with business and industry and the UKRPIF scheme is truly catalysing those collaborations.” 

Rail industry reaction

Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 Ltd, said: “The government’s commitment to deliver this final piece of funding for the IHSRSI is a further sign of confidence in the economic benefits and boost to jobs and skills that high-speed rail is delivering, not just for Leeds and the North of England, but for the UK as a whole. HS2 will operate between London and Birmingham in 2026, extending to Leeds in 2033, and this world-class rail research facility will be integral to the long-term success of high-speed rail in Britain.”

Robert Davies, High Speed Train Bid Director at Bombardier Transportation, said: “The IHSRSI will be a very significant addition to the UK’s rail capability, and we are already engaging with the institute on how we can use the facilities it will offer for the trains that we design and build in Britain.”

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