Institute for Transport Studies (ITS)

NeTIRail-INFRA: Sustainable Railways

ITS is a key partner in a new €5.4M research project which seeks to secure the future for Europe’s lesser used railway lines, by making them more reliable and economically viable.

Railways play a major role in society’s transport needs, but for them to continue doing so depends on modernising the maintenance and development of their infrastructure. New high speed rail lines regularly make the news headlines, but millions of people depend on lesser used and older routes, which can be overlooked until services deteriorate and are threatened with closure.

The application of new technologies, alongside better assessment of the economic value of railway lines (such as value the jobs they provide access to) is the focus of the Needs Tailored Interoperable Railway Infrastructure (NeTIRail-INFRA) project.   Funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, the project brings together companies and universities from eight countries to examine how tailored technology can make lines more sustainable, whilst also boosting wider EU mobility and economic growth.

The project includes the following work packages:

  • Track infrastructure design and route optimised maintenance.
  • Low cost electrification options via tailored overhead power infrastructure.
  • New technical approaches to monitoring - supporting the operation, maintenance and renewal of the infrastructure.
  • The economic and social impacts of rail - examining costs & benefits, viability of lines and investment decisions.
  • Developing new software for rail operators across Europe to adopt.

The project is targeting rail infrastructure reliability/availability increases of around 20%, capacity utilisation of 70-90%, and a reduction of recurrent costs by 25-45% relative to current levels. In addition to its impact on transport, it is intended that the skills developed via the project will allow European businesses and researchers to export their knowledge to wider markets, supporting EU competitiveness and growth.

The project will run for three years from June 2015.The project is led by the University of Sheffield in collaboration with 12 international partners. Members of the consortium represent railway operators, infrastructure operators and maintainers, technical industries and research organisations from the UK, France, Romania, Netherlands, Germany, Turkey, Sweden and Slovenia:

  • University of Sheffield.
  • Institute for Transport Studies (ITS) - University of Leeds.
  • Union Internationale des Chemins de Fer (UIC) - International Union of Railways.
  • ADS-Electronic Research SRL.
  • Authoritatea Feroviara Romana (AFER) - Romanian Railway Authority.
  • Technische Universiteit Delft (TU Delft).
  • Albert-Ludwigs Universitaet Freiburg.
  • Institut Francais des Sciences et Technologies des Transports, de l’Amenagement et des Reseaux (IFSTTAR).
  • Turkiye Cumhuriyeti Devlet Demir Yollari Isletmesi Genel Mudurlugu (TCDD) - Turkish State Railway.
  • Intermodal Tasimacilik ve Lojistikarastirma Dernegi (INTADER).
  • Statens Vag och Transportforskningsinstitut (VTI).
  • Slovenske Zeleznice (SZ) - Slovenian Railway Authority.
  • S.C RC-CF Trans S.R.L (RCCF) - Romanian Railway Operator & Infrastructure Manager.
Members of the NeTIRail-INFRA consortium pictured at the first project meeting.