Home Company News West Coast Partnership signs research deal with Leeds Uni

West Coast Partnership signs research deal with Leeds Uni

The University of Leeds has announced a research tie-in – worth more than £1 million – with

The West Coast Partnership, the franchise that runs rail services on the West Coast main line and has been selected as the operator of phase one of HS2, has entered into a research agreement with the University of Leeds.

In a deal worth more than £1 million, scientists and engineers at the University’s Institute for High-Speed Rail and System Integration, will focus their research on: 

  • Automatic Train Operation and European Train Control System – technologies, which include signalling, to keep trains operating safely;
  • Passenger movement on trains and in stations;
  • Full scale testing of rolling stock and their system integration;
  • Driver training and simulation;
  • Passenger experience

The Institute for High-Speed Rail and System Integration will be capable of simulating the conditions found on busy rail networks. The Institute’s director, Professor Peter Woodward, said: “The Institute was designed to speed up the time it takes to get new innovative ideas introduced to the railway – and to ensure that when they are brought into service, they work as intended.

“The facilities at Leeds will enable new technologies to be thoroughly tested and risk-proofed before they go live on a busy network, significantly reducing the likelihood of operational problems developing thereby reducing network delays and hence frustration among passengers.”

“Our founding philosophy is to work closely with the rail industry, and I am excited that we are forming a research collaboration with the West Coast Partnership that will be shaping the UK rail industry for decades to come.”

The cutting-edge facilities at the Institute for High-Speed Rail and System Integration will include a specially designed vehicle testing rig – in effect, a rolling track that can test trains and carriages at speeds up to 250mph. Using a tilting platform, it will be able to simulate bends, ascents and descents. Programmable with GPS and track geometry data, it can create any rail route in the world. It will be used for designing and testing new traction and power systems, brakes and ways of increasing energy efficiency.

An infrastructure testing facility will be able to re-create the enormous forces that are generated on tracks, ballast and embankments by conventional and high-speed trains. It will allow engineers to significantly cut the time it takes to design and test new track and support structures.

A system-integration laboratory will measure how well different railway technologies – power, track, signals and customer information services – operate as an integrated whole. Major rail investment projects are sometimes delayed when systems are brought together and found to be incompatible.

Caroline Donaldson, managing director at West Coast Partnership Development, said: “We are at the start of a huge technological revolution on the West Coast Main Line. Within the next few years, trains will be greener and cleaner, passengers will travel in greater comfort, wi-fi will be faster and more reliable and there will be facilities to wirelessly charge mobile phones.

“In nine years, we will also be running high-speed services on the HS2 line connecting some of the nation’s biggest cities including Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and London.”

“We will be using a lot of leading-edge technologies and helping us to embed them into our operations will be the highly-skilled research engineers and scientists at the Institute for High-Speed Rail and System Integration.”

Construction of the Institute for High-Speed Rail and System Integration, at a site next to the Leeds Enterprise Zone, has started, but progress has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Timing for when the facilities will be completed will be influenced by the ongoing pandemic.

The Institute will form a key part of a wider strategy involving Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority/ Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership to develop a UK centre of excellence for rail engineering in the Leeds City Region.

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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