Byline: Campbell Docherty Transport Reporter
A team of Midland academics have been handed pounds 7 million to help create a world class rail system for the UK.
At a press conference in the House of Commons, the University of Birmingham will today be named the national base for independent railways research .
The centre, which is being funded by the Government's Engineering and Physical Science Research Council for the next six years, will pay particular attention to finding innovative ways of slashing spiralling maintenance bills.
The university's School ofEngineering, where Rail Research UK will be based, already has a long history of railway work dating back over 20 years and has established a multi-disciplined team of researchers.
Professor Keith Madelin, the centre's director, said: 'We understand how important a safe and efficient railway system is to its customers, how to work with the industry and others to deliver results of real benefit.
'We have been working closely with the railway industry over the past few years on a wide range of research projects - and Birmingham is at the geographic heart of the national rail network.'
Prof Madelin said rail privatisation had broken up a once cutting edge rail research facility.
'Before privatisation there was the British Rail Research Centre at Derby which was responsible for a great deal of excellent research. But it was sold off and now only researches what it is paid to research.
'The problem today is that knowledge is being lost to the industry.
'Researchers from the old BR centre are either retired or in different jobs and we hope to collate some of the old BR research here and make it more widely available. We will have the capability of doing some forward thinking and research that might not have been considered a priority in the past few years, creative thinking and new ideas.
'We will have the freedom to do research that will benefit the industry but is not driven by commercial concerns.
'Having said that, we will closely with the industry and seek to understand their problems.
'Our aim is to be regularly commissioned by Network Rail and the train operators. If that does not happen then we will have failed.'
The research team have a series of …