• £106m boost for UK Rail Research and Development

The University of Birmingham, supported by Siemens Mobility, has been awarded £15 million by the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) to establish a new world-leading railway research and innovation centre at Goole in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

The UKRPIF investment will enable the University of Birmingham, working with the University of Huddersfield, to establish a new Centre of Excellence for Railway Through-Life Engineering in Goole alongside the major new Siemens Mobility train manufacturing facility, due to open in 2024.

The funding is part of £30m announced through the UKRPIF fund to establish two new world-leading railway research and innovation facilities, with the other being a new Centre of Excellence for Railway Testing, Validation and Customer Experience in South Wales.

The successful funding bid includes a wider commitment from the rail industry to co-invest £60m, with a further £16m being invested by the University of Birmingham. In total the package represents a £106m boost for UK research and development.

The new Centre of Excellence for Railway Through-Life Engineering in Goole will be located next to the Rail Accelerator for Innovation Solutions and Enterprise (RaisE) business centre and within the major new Siemens Mobility rail village.

This Centre will provide cutting-edge facilities to support the build, service, maintenance, and modernisation of railway rolling stock with a focus on robotics, sensing, and automation.

Siemens Mobility is investing up to £200m in Goole, a site that spans 67-acres, the size of 35 football pitches. The new train manufacturing facility will create up to 700 skilled jobs, as well as up to 1,700 in the supply chain and 250 during construction. In April 2023 the components facility opened, this is where gearboxes, traction motors and other parts for trains and tram fleets across the UK are maintained. Trains for the UK market will be built at the new factory, starting with new Piccadilly line Tube trains for London, with manufacturing due to begin in Goole next year.

The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at the University of Birmingham is Europe’s largest specialist railway research, education, and innovation centre; BCRRE is the lead institution for the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) and leads the UKRRIN Centre of Excellence in Digital Systems that works on the development and application of digital technologies for the railway.  It will now also lead the Centre of Excellence in Railway Testing, Validation and Customer Experience.

UKRRIN offers industry access to purpose built world leading facilities and skills in a range of areas to support research, development and innovation for new technologies and products. It creates powerful collaboration between academia and industry, providing step-changes in innovation in railway and accelerating new technologies and products from research into market applications globally.

This new facility brings together the already established UKRRIN network and the SME community already based at RaisE with academic research and innovation alongside rail manufacturing. This next step continues the pathway to deliver the rail village vision, benefitting the industry as a whole.

Professor Clive Roberts, BCRRE Director, said:

“We are delighted to continue and strengthen our relationship with Siemens Mobility both as one of the lead partners for the University of Birmingham and UKRRIN. With the new factory and centre of excellence underway we are determined to build, grow, and innovate the UK railway system.

“As a global leader in railway research and education, we work with partners across the world to develop their workforce and their technical and operational capabilities and it starts on our doorstep. We champion SMEs and work closely with supply chains to introduce new ideas, new ways of working and cross sector collaboration.

“With this new funding our aim is to have the capabilities and tools for through life engineering from conceptual design all the way to end of life with a focus on robotics, sensing and automation, coinciding with our Centre of Excellence in Digital systems.”

Sambit Banerjee, MD Siemens Mobility UK Rolling Stock and Customer Services, said:

“This is fantastic news, not just for Goole but the rail industry as a whole. Our vision was always much more than just building a train factory, we want to have a full rail village for the industry and to create a lasting skills legacy in Goole. Bringing academia, with the University of Birmingham and University of Huddersfield, and industry together in one site is exactly the kind of opportunity that will continue to foster collaboration and innovation across the UK rail industry as well as support the economy.”

Councillor Anne Handley, leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, welcomed the news of the investment and said,

“I am delighted to hear that Goole is one of just two sites in the country that has been chosen to be the home of world-leading railway research and innovation facilities.

“This is an exciting and significant project that will create jobs in the research and development sector, including administration and office roles as well as technical jobs while for the next generation, so those children in primary and secondary school, it will give them the opportunity of a brighter future in innovation and technology in rail.”

As a founder UKRRIN partner, and host for its Centre of Excellence in Rolling Stock, the University of Huddersfield’s renowned Institute of Railway Research (IRR) is delighted to be working alongside the University of Birmingham and Siemens Mobility in the development of unique capabilities to be sited within the new through life engineering and testing facility at Goole. The venture will provide the perfect springboard to extend the formative work of the Institute’s Smart Rolling Stock Maintenance Research Facility.

Professor Paul Allen, Director of the IRR said:

“Railway rolling stock has a long asset life; developing the next generation of automated and smart inspection and maintenance techniques, together with a platform to facilitate a rolling digital and component upgrade cycle throughout a vehicle’s life, is key to reducing cost, improving reliability and ensuring we extract the maximum value from the monetary and carbon investment in new and existing fleets. This exciting new academic and industry partnership will help ensure the railway can deliver the innovations needed for sustainable and efficient rolling stock and railway infrastructure operations. We very much look forward to applying our expertise in developing next generation maintenance technologies, extending our collaboration with project partners, and building the capabilities of SMEs and the supply chain to meet the future needs of the rail sector.”

Construction work on the Centre of Excellence for Railway Through-Life Engineering building is expected to begin later this year with the facility set to open in 2025.