Home Company News British Steel to launch major R&D programme with the University of Sheffield

British Steel to launch major R&D programme with the University of Sheffield

British Steel is to collaborate with the University of Sheffield to further improve its rail testing – ensuring the very highest quality of steel is used to build rail infrastructure, saving money for the industry and reducing delays for passengers

The University of Sheffield is the only university in the UK to have this range of state-of-the-art equipment in one place – available for industry collaboration and knowledge transfer to drive research and innovation. British Steel will use the university’s facilities to enhance its range of world class rail products and services, embarking on a multi-million-pound research and development (R&D) programme with the University of Sheffield.

Test Machine.

The company, which supplies the majority of the track laid in the UK and exports to major networks across the globe, is working with the University to ensure British manufacturers remain at the forefront of rail technology and innovation. The partnership will see British Steel harness new state-of-the-art equipment, alongside the University of Sheffield’s world-renowned metallurgy and mechanical engineering expertise.

Installed across two sites at the University’s Faculty of Engineering and British Steel’s R&D facility at the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, the equipment will be used to test steel that can be used to build new and improved railway infrastructures.

Rails produced as part of the collaboration will be used to further improve the UK’s own  infrastructure as part of the UK Railway Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN). The network is aligned with the government’s Industrial Strategy and aims to supply the UK’s rail industry with world leading new technologies for trains, railway systems and infrastructure for a more reliable and efficient railway. The rails will also be sold across the globe as British Steel continues to grow into new markets and territories.

The University of Sheffield is the only university in the UK to have this range of equipment in one place and it’s been developed thanks to funding from Research England’s Research Partnership Investment Fund which offers a match funding approach for co-investment with industry partners. British Steel is contributing £1.6 million including significant staff time and materials, matched on a 2:1 basis with Research England funds.

The investments include machinery that will be able to simulate the contact between wheels and railway rails under a variety of different conditions, giving British Steel and the rail industry the ability to test new rails and sleepers more rapidly than could be achieved by trial installations on the network.

Sleeper Test Rig.

British Steel CEO Ron Deelen said: “This partnership will help ensure British Steel continues to lead the way in developing and building the railways of the future. In a hugely competitive market, we’re committed to enhancing our product range so we can keep meeting and exceeding the high standards operators and travellers rightly demand.

“Product development, integrity and innovation have never been as important, with major rail infrastructure programmes around the world, including HS2, requiring the high-quality products synonymous with the British Steel name. We’re well-placed to supply significant quantities of rail, and constructional steel, into major projects like these and deliver cost-effective solutions to the challenges our customers face.”

Professor David Fletcher, Professor of Railway Engineering at the University of Sheffield, added: “The investment in new equipment with British Steel is opening up research directions, and partnering with them is a fantastic route for the knowledge gained to achieve impact. Besides research we’re also running undergraduate projects with British Steel input so the next generation of engineers can benefit from the investments as they enter industry. Research England’s co-investment with industry into Sheffield has enabled us to take these steps.”

Nigel Wordsworth BSc(Hons) MCIJhttp://therailengineer.com

SPECIALIST AREAS Rolling stock, mechanical equipment, project reports, executive interviews


Nigel Wordsworth graduated with an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering from Nottingham University, after which he joined the American aerospace and industrial fastener group SPS Technologies. After a short time at the research laboratories in Pennsylvania, USA, Nigel became responsible for applications engineering to industry in the UK and Western Europe. At this time he advised on various engineering projects, from Formula 1 to machine tools, including a particularly problematic area of bogie design for the HST.

A move to the power generation and offshore oil supply sector followed as Nigel became director of Entwistle-Sandiacre, a subsidiary of the Australian-owned group Aurora plc. At the same time, Nigel spent ten years as a Technical Commissioner with the RAC Motor Sports Association, responsible for drafting and enforcing technical regulations for national and international motor racing series.

Joining Rail Engineer in 2008, Nigel’s first assignment was a report on new three-dimensional mobile mapping and surveying equipment, swiftly followed by a look at vegetation control machinery. He continues to write on a variety of topics for most issues.

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