University of Birmingham: Global rail leaders focus on ‘reshaping our railways post-pandemic’

The World Congress on Railway Research, hosted by RSSB and the University of Birmingham, saw delegates from across the global community championing technical development, advocating collaborations and inspiring the next generation of rail professionals to work together on the common challenges faced by railways. Topics discussed ranged from zero carbon trains to passenger experience to enhancing rail freight.

Rail Minister, Wendy Morton MP, delivered the Ministerial Address to the Congress as part of the first days’ events. She said: “It was great to see delegates from across the globe championing innovation and inspiring the next generation of rail professionals.

“It was also wonderful to see the industry, academia and government all coming together to share ideas to reach our common goal of developing, decarbonising and driving forward the railway industry.”

As part of her visit to Birmingham, Ms Morton also toured the University’s new railway research facilities based in its new UKRRIN (UK Rail Research and Innovation Network) building. The facilities were established to support powerful research and industrial partnerships in digital railway engineering.

“Research and development is accelerating at fast speeds, with high-tech facilities and a strong focus on education, resulting in some remarkable collaborations,” added Ms Morton. “So, it was wonderful to see the facilities available in Birmingham which are directly supporting the railway industry, not only in the UK but overseas too.”

With over 300 speakers, 340 unique sessions delivered and over 600 paper submissions, tailored panel sessions and opportunities to network, it was wonderful to see a truly invested interest in rail under one roof.
Professor Clive Roberts, Head of the School of Engineering
Head of the School of Engineering at the University of Birmingham, Professor Clive Roberts, said: “It’s safe to say that the 13th World Congress on Railway Research has successfully taken place here in our City of Birmingham. The 5-day congress had an excellent turnout of over 700 delegates from across the globe. We were honoured to host Rail Minister Wendy Morton and the EU ambassador João Vale de Almeida as part of their visits to the congress along with Councillor Ian Ward and many other industrial leaders.

“With over 300 speakers, 340 unique sessions delivered and over 600 paper submissions, tailored panel sessions and opportunities to network, it was wonderful to see a truly invested interest in rail under one roof. The conversations and discussions that took place across the week all led to the common goal of improving our railway system, making rail greener, the chosen and most attractive mode of public transport, improving passenger experience and enhancing rail freight tying in nicely with the congress theme of Reshaping our railways post-pandemic: Research with an impact.

“Working with our long-standing partner RSSB to co-host this congress was a great experience and really cements the work we have done together for the railway industry. A great example of what can be achieved through collaboration, something we at the University of Birmingham champion and at our Railway Centre we deliver, therefore a very big thank you to those that attended the congress and made it happen. It was brilliant to see our partners, friends, guests, and future collaborators.”

Luisa Moisio Director of Research and Development at RSSB commented: “The 13th WCRR was a resounding success and I’m incredibly proud to see everybody’s hard work pay off. It was a fantastic week, with a varied mix of exhibitions, presentations, plenary discussions and technical visits on new railway research, development, and technical innovation.

“Hundreds of delegates joined us from around the world, bringing together their different perspectives and experiences and informing in-depth discussions on the challenges facing the railways in a post covid world.

“Through our research and development, building on the success of WCRR, RSSB is committed to helping the industry in Great Britain to make vital improvements that will increase the reliability, efficiency, and sustainability of the railway, delivering more value to its passengers and freight customers while maintaining its good safety performance.”

Carlo Borghini, Executive Director, Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking, said: “It has been a great pleasure to support the WCRR 2022 here in Birmingham and share our vision. WCRR is the opportunity to really show to the global rail research community what we have achieved in Europe in the past five years under the Shift2Rail programme, but also to learn from one another and offer the possibility to work together in the future under Europe’s Rail, its five major priorities and the future flagship projects.”

He added: “Being here, in presence of many railway and transport professionals from around the globe really underpins the importance of working together, learning from each other, share knowledge. Maximising performance, sustaining our resources, and investing in our next generations of engineers will make our railway the most attractive mode of transport for both passengers and freight, contributing to the competitiveness of the European rail industry.

Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 said: “As we deliver Britain’s new zero-carbon, high speed railway, we’re taking the opportunity to champion research and continually innovate in areas ranging from engineering to the environment.

“The World Congress on Railway Research was an ideal platform to share our experiences, while continuing to learn from international expertise. We hope that our interactive exhibition and involvement in the plenary discussion was as valuable for the international rail research community as it was for us. Equally, we were pleased to take delegates behind the scenes of the HS2 Curzon Street Station site, which will be at the heart of the new high speed rail network, ultimately helping to boost rail capacity and economic growth across the country, while providing a cleaner and greener way to travel.”

The next World Congress is due to be hosted in 2025 by MxV Rail in the United States.

Kari Gonzales, CEO & President at MxV Rail, added: “MxV Rail is honoured to host the 2025 WCRR conference in colourful Colorado, USA. We look forward to welcoming delegates to the next WCRR event focused on advancing our industry toward a safer and more resilient global rail network.”