Funding agreed for cutting-edge experimental rail facility

The Government has confirmed funding to create one of the most advanced conventional and high speed rail research facilities in the world.

An artist’s impression of the Institute of High Speed Rail and System Integration (Picture courtesy of Atkins Artist’s Impression)

The Institute for High Speed Rail and System Integration (IHSRSI) at Leeds will revolutionise the way new railway systems are invented, developed and brought into service.

It will be located next to the Leeds City Region Enterprise Zone and forms the early phase 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.

At the heart of the 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 here 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.

Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at 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 UK Research Partnership and Investment Fund (UKRPIF) scheme is truly catalysing those collaborations.”

Professor Peter Woodward, who is Head of IHSRSI 

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.

“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.”

The Government’s support for the Leeds Institute has been allocated from the 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.

The aim is for the Institute to become fully operational in 2021. It will be sited on the Leeds City Region Enterprise Zone at Gateway 45, near junction 45 of the M1 motorway.

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’ Institute for High Speed Rail and System Integration, when developed, will revolutionise the transport system and benefit passengers by ensuring it is fit for the 21st century and beyond.

“Universities across the Northern Powerhouse have a strong tradition of being at the forefront of scientific research and innovation and that is why continued Government investment in our higher education institutions is so important.”

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.”

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