RAILWAY industry researchers from around the world will descend on Birmingham on June 6-10 to participate in the World Congress of Railway Research (WCRR). Britain’s Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and the University of Birmingham are hosting the 13th edition of the event at the International Convention Centre in the city and more than 700 delegates are expected to attend. 

RSSB is one of the seven founding members of WCRR, and the 13th edition of the Congress returns to Britain for the first time since it took place in Edinburgh in 2003. The event was last held in Tokyo in November 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, which has arguably altered the direction of railway research. Indeed, the theme of WCRR 2022 is “Reshaping our railways post-pandemic: research with an impact” and RSSB says that the knowledge and novel solutions generated by research are essential to the rail sector’s recovery.

“It is exciting to be organising the first international get-together of the rail research community since the Covid pandemic,” says Ms Luisa Moisio, director of research and development at RSSB and joint chair of WCRR 2022. “In-person meetings are so important for opening up new opportunities, which can then be pursued through a combination of virtual and in-person follow-ups. WCRR 2022 presents us with a much-needed opportunity to reconnect, to refresh and expand our networks, and to link up international technical developments.”

Moisio’s co-chair, Professor Clive Roberts, who ishead of the School of Engineering at the University of Birmingham, says WCRR retains its unique place in the railway events calendar as not just a gathering of academic experts, “but a coming together of funders and users of research with researchers that are truly active in this space.”

“With Covid finally under control in many countries, delegate numbers for WCRR 2022 have been growing fast and steadily over the last few months and they are continuing to do so,” Roberts says.

The event itself will feature 18 confirmed plenary speakers, nine masterclasses and three professional growth sessions. There will be more than 300 research paper presentations and 34 supporters and sponsors will attend, including headline supporters Network Rail, Europe’s Rail and HS2 Ltd.

Network Rail chair, Sir Peter Hendy, will address the opening session on June 7.

According to Ms Sharon Odentunde, head of partnerships at RSSB, the quality of submissions has only gone up since the call for abstracts was made in February 2021. “This is testimony to the strength of the rail research community, in terms of its breadth and depth of expertise,” Odentunde says.

“Not only will delegates have access to this treasure trove of papers through the WCRR 2022 app, but by attending in person they will also be able to engage with researchers - comparing notes, offering support and constructive challenges, and sharing their experiences moving from research to implementation and adoption.”

Following a welcome reception on June 6, which will feature entertainment from London’s Transport Choir, leading figures from Britain’s railway and research sector will participate in the opening of the main event the following morning. Sir Peter Hendy, the chair of Network Rail, Mr Mark Phillips, chief executive of RSSB, and Professor Adam Tickell, vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham, will be joined by Britain’s rail minister, Ms Wendy Morton, in addressing the conference.

The opening will be followed by the first of three daily plenary sessions that will feature a panel of senior leaders from around the world. “Delegates will benefit from the insights of these senior leaders as well as from the informed conversations that that they will help to stimulate,” says Ms Nailah Fraser-Haynes, senior partnership manager at RSSB. “The plenaries provide a unique window into the significance that strategic thinkers place on research, with their take on the best research success stories that demonstrate real-world impacts, and on the opportunities they see for research to make an even bigger contribution to the future success of rail.”

Of course, chances for networking will continue into the evening. A full social programme is planned, including more informal mingling in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens on June 7, and a Gala Dinner in support of Railway Children on June 9. In addition, in line with the tradition set by previous events, on the final day delegates will have the opportunity to visit some of Britain’s most innovative and important railway sites, factories and facilities to gain insight into what is happening on the ground.

Among the trips available is a visit to the HS2 Curzon Street construction site; a trip to Network Rail’s testing facilities at Melton Mowbray; and a tour of Britain’s largest rolling stock factory in Derby where Alstom is assembling its Aventra trains. There is also a chance for delegates to see innovative work in hydrogen testing, light rail, specialist design and manufacturing, and freight logistics. As the home of the oldest railway roundhouse in the world and the terminus of the first leg of HS2, the country’s current flagship railway project, Birmingham is an appropriate venue to host this edition of WCRR. The organisers certainly hope the city will provide a suitable backdrop for five days of productive discussion and discovery.

Registration remains open for the event here.