In connection with the UIC General Assembly in Tokyo and the 9th UIC World Congress on High Speed Rail, members of the UIC IRRB – International Rail Research Board met for an informal dinner meeting on Sunday 5 July.
Before starting dinner, the IRRB members went to work and followed an extensive agenda with its main focus on the progress of the implementation of the 2014 – 2016 2nd IRRB Strategic Document.
The chairman, Prof. Boris Lapidus welcomed all the attending members and stated that we have “big tasks ahead of us”. He said that we could have taken it easier but we took upon us a couple of important and difficult matters as described in the 2nd Strategy Document. When we achieve this it will help the railway sector to be more competitive. When you know there is competition between individual railways, we have to realise that this is not comparable with those coming from other modes. In order to compete with these mighty forces, we can only succeed if we cooperate as rail operating community! If we don’t we will be vulnerable. We shall unite our abilities and not invent the wheel or the bicycle – as we say - again. Therefore we have to see our tasks as follows: integration, uniting intellectual and potential, strive for united goals and common understandings of each railway company. In order to achieve this we are developing the GVRD (the “Global Vision for Railway Development” document as well as the identification and classification of the World Class research organisations (WORC), to see who are the best and commonly search for innovative solutions.
Development of criteria for innovative development of railways – brainstorming discussion
Many times the word “Innovation” is being used. We need ‘Innovation”. That sounds very positive, but what exactly does it mean and how do we measure this ‘Innovation’?
The chairman stated that in order to make progress in innovation we need a process for our tasks. It would be good to attain a measure for the level of progress of the railways. It will be a very difficult task as there are many different areas and examples of progress and innovation as e.g. the HSL in Japan, the excellent railways in Africa and their heavy haul technologies. Also the Russian Railways which transport freight and passengers on the same track, passenger trains reaching 200 km/h and freight with a very high tonnage, many efforts are being made and these experiences should be shared.
We should learn to measure the technological advances of the railways and this then would allow us to answer questions like: on which level is safety, on what level is customer service, what about our management systems? It would enable us to reach this experience and development faster.
Therefore Mr Lapidus has developed a system for the measurement of innovation for four components: the level of technological development of railway transport, the level of services rendered by railway transport, the safety level and level of efficiency. Each of those components is determined by a set of respective indices. It is a simple system which in the end evaluates the relative level of development of each railway.
After his explanations, comments were invited from other IRRB members; comments which might enable us to ‘fine-tune’ this approach.
In a very stimulating way the chairman went on to explain that besides research for short term innovations we should also focus more attention on more fundamental research issues, aimed at future developments where we could make bigger steps ahead. He mentioned the idea of higher speeds attained in a vacuum, the further research and development to establish higher conductivity so that maglev trains become more energy efficient. He mentioned other areas for future developments for step changes in order to bring the railways forward.
Furthermore, we should not overlook the fact that there is a lot of research which is not done within the railways but outside where we could work on conversions, adaptations can be made for use within the railway system. We should think about the mixing of competitive use of other transport modes etc. We should also go away from the wheel and the rail, decreasing the energy loss because of friction. He added that the next decades hopefully will absorb innovation better in order not to lose the previous important role which rail had in the transport system. This is a very important task for us for the coming years! The vision of the chairman was very much shared by the attending members.
Global Vision for Railway Development – GVRD
Mr Wisniewski, Director of the UIC Department for Fundamental values, gave a first reaction on how to stimulate the development better by the railways. We should indeed work on defining the index of innovations to be set up to boost the development of the railways. In order to proceed we also would also need a form of stable investment and the support at regional & national political level. The UIC tries to support these efforts through its activities such as those related to the Kyoto protocol and COP21. It looks like the USA and China etc. will now support COP21. UIC reports directly to the UN as adviser. This new project and all new ideas will link in with our work on the IRRB GVRD document – the Global Vision for Rail Development – which will be offered to the UIC General Assembly for their endorsement in December 2015. This new document – step 1 in the 2nd IRRB Strategy Document – has been developed by the IRRB as a common global vision for the rail operating community and has been based on the strategic action plans of all six UIC Regions.
Following the endorsement of the GVRD, the IRRB will concentrate on the second strategic area: the definition of common research priorities which could lead to multi-regional research projects to be carried out by global UIC members supported by ‘excellent’ academia and research institutes specialised on the issues concerning the railway system and the interaction with the other modes of transport.
World Class Research capacity Plan – WORC
Following this, the discussion concentrated on the development of the strategic area 3: the WORC – World Class Research Capacity Plan – a development ably led by IRRB Vice-Chairman Mr Jaroslav grim of CD VUZ. The main aim of this WORC is to have an overview of ‘who is who’ in railway research, which are the high quality research institutes, which are their researchers and which expertise and capacity do they have within their organisation. To know this would enable the exchange of information and the immediate localisation of academic and research expertise to support future rail research and innovation projects.
The topics discussed have focused mainly on the proposal for a software solution that has been prepared by the Czech Technical University in Prague (CUT Prague). In the discussion in Moscow ‘Prof. Lapidus confirmed our opinion that in the first stage it is necessary to focus on a simple and quick solution database WORC and its further development to begin in the second stage. Prof. B. Lapidus simultaneously supported the intention that the solution and eventually operation of the WORC database could be ensured by VUZ in cooperation with the Czech Technical University in Prague – if it is technically possible and economically efficient. It is clear that the WORC database will be part of the UIC portal and be linked to the SPARK rail research database as developed by the RSSB.
Dissemination and exchange of knowledge & information
Two IRRB vice-chairmen are cooperating to implement the strategic area, namely Mrs Vicki Brown of ACRI (Australia) and Mr Guven Kandemir (TCDD). Mr Kandemir reported on the progress within this area and especially on the interim outcome of the survey & questionnaire which has been sent out to potential users of the UIC Research portal and SPARK. Reactions to this survey are still coming but from the responses so far a number of first conclusions could be mentioned:
- We could benefit from more widely promoting our tools. Over 50% of the recipients do not use Railway-Research.org and nearly 40% recipients do not use SPARK.
- Of those not using Railway-Research.org, over 90% were not yet aware of the site
- Of those not using SPARK, nearly 80% were not yet aware of the site
We could benefit from providing more information on our own activities. Over 60% of Railway-Research.org users wanted more information on IRRB activities. Access to projects undertaken by IRRB members was also requested from SPARK.
Both Railway-Research.org and SPARK are not accessed frequently:
- 60% of Railway-Research.org users access the site every few months
- 50% of SPARK users access the site every few months
The chairman thanked Mr Kandemir and his team for this information and supported further development of the survey and invited further suggestions.
In order to further improve the UIC Research Portal and SPARK and to give the railway community the best available information the chairman invited everybody to inform their colleagues widely about these information sources and about the ongoing survey which can be accessed through the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JP9VWH6
The UIC Global Rail Research & Innovation Awards 2016
In his introductory remarks, the chairman has already underlined the importance of these Awards. Dennis Schut reported that the information and submissions pages for these Awards have been updated toward the third edition of the Awards, which will be presented during or linked to the UIC General Assembly in December 2016. The information pages concerning the ‘Young Researchers Award’ especially have been updated and a newly developed template has been developed and can be downloaded to be completed. The invitation for applicants for the Awards will be open from 6 July and will be announced during the General Assembly by the chairman during his presentation of the IRRB progress.
Mr Wisniewski mentioned that sponsorship of the Awards can now be accepted. Any organisation can offer to be a sponsor, provided the organisation is support by one or more UIC members.
The information on the 5th IRRB area concluded this fruitful and stimulating meeting of the IRRB in Tokyo. The next Plenary Meeting will be organised in November on a date to be decided. Plans were also made to organise a special IRRB global brainstorming workshop with high level invited speakers on the future of the railway system and its future role in the total global transportation system.
The UIC International rail Research Board – IRRB is open to all UIC members as well as to specialised rail research centres and academia. For this group of organisations, special UIC Limited Affiliate Membership is available.