BRITAIN’s infrastructure manager Network Rail (NR) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) on July 24 to collaborate on research and development projects including the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

NR says that the MoU marks its first step to strengthen international ties in order to share knowledge and best practice.

The agreement with SBB also forms part of NR’s new International Research & Development Partnership Programme (IRDPP), which aims to develop new technology to improve safety and network performance for both passenger and freight services.

NR says that the programme will initially examine the use of AI to inspect steel bridges and switches and crossings, as well as “light rail remote condition monitoring.”

Projects developed under the IRDPP will be jointly funded with the responsibility for providing resources and testing capability shared between both parties.

Best practice will be equally shared, initially in the form of workshops that will be conducted both in person and online.

“This partnership marks a major step for us as an organisation, partnering with the international rail community to share experience in operating a railway,” says NR chief technology officer, Mr Robert Ampomah.

“There has always been a history of information sharing with rail colleagues nationally and internationally, but signing the MoU with SBB solidifies our commitment to work more closely together.”

“By jointly improving our operational excellence we strive for the best returns for our passengers and customers,” says SBB’s head of technology, Mr Roland Mosner.

“We welcome the opportunity to collaboratively work with Network Rail and to share the positive outcomes this will bring.”

Following Britain’s exit from the European Union, NR is not part of the Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking (ERJU), the second cross-industry European research programme, after it played a central role as a founding member of the first programme, Shift2Rail.

Speaking at the Railtex exhibition in May, NR’s head of railway technology, Mr Gareth Evans, told IRJ that the infrastructure manager was seeking to strengthen its relationship with European partners to boost research and innovation, including SBB and Dutch infrastructure manager ProRail.