The Smart Rolling Stock Maintenance Research Facility (SRSMRF) inside the University’s Institute of Railway Research (IRR) is part of a £1.8 million project to investigate how cutting-edge technology and data analysis can improve the efficiency and reliability of how the UK’s railway rolling stock is maintained.
Partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the facility includes a Smart Rolling Stock Maintenance Research Office and the Rolling Stock Maintenance Robotics Lab, as well as funding the equipment and staff time to develop the new stream of research.
While Industrial automation and robotics are already heavily used in a range of industries, these same technologies are not currently exploited to keep trains safe and operating at peak efficiency. The facility aims to be a focal point for industry and academia to collaborate on this core area of railway engineering.
In this video you can see some of the cutting-edge technology installed in the new facility which was demonstrated at the seminar, hosted in the University's Laura Annie Willson Building, to celebrate the facility's official launch.
The seminar was attended by industry professionals, train operators, vehicle manufacturers, the railway infrastructure manager Network Rail, academics from partner universities, robotics companies as well as leading suppliers to the rail industry.
During the day there were talks explaining modern rolling stock maintenance techniques for passenger and freight vehicles, combined with research into new tools and techniques that can be used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of maintenance.
There were also demonstrations of the new SRSMRF facilities, and the seminar also included presentations of the work carried out at the SRSMRF to date, along with presentations from colleagues in industry and other academic institutes working in the field.
Guest speakers from the Rail Industry Association (RIA), Rail Partners, Chiltern Trains, Brunel University, Olympus Technologies and Rail Freight Group (RFG) also spoke at the event.
Principal Investigator of the project Professor Gareth Tucker reveals how improving the efficiency of train maintenance is a key initiative for the future of the rail industry because of the potential to reduce costs and also increase the reliability of trains. This, he adds, should make the whole rail system more reliable and will be of growing importance in future if network capacity is going to be increased.
Reducing the cost of maintenance, he continues, should also make rail travel more affordable and help encourage modal shift from car and air transport, therefore contributing to a reduction in transport emissions with rail being the most energy efficient mode of transport.
“The railways are under a lot of financial pressure at the moment,” said Professor Tucker.
“This new facility has been created to investigate how Smart Technologies can help make railway maintenance more efficient and cost-effective. The technologies being developed are robots and automation, increased use of remote conditioning and prognostic maintenance, and the use of data-driven decision making and Artificial Intelligence to help plan maintenance and scheduling of different tasks,” he added.
The SRSMRF builds on the IRR’s expertise in Railway Rolling Stock Engineering and complements the facilities and work programme as part of the UKRRIN Centre of Excellence in Rolling Stock.
Being located within the IRR means the facility is also perfectly placed to access the Institute’s other world-class facilities to carry out its research, including a pantograph test rig and a vehicle-track interaction test rig.
The team within the facility will work closely alongside a range of key industry partners including Northern Railway, Chiltern Railways, Porterbrook, DB Cargo, Network Rail and Unipart Rail over the course of the three-year project and are inviting those interested in collaborating on the research to get in touch.