Leeds’s High Speed Rail Institute Receives Boost

  • Prof  Woodward Promises Excellence

 Plans for the University’s new high-speed rail research and development institute have moved forward after West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Investment Committee backed a £13m investment, a statement by the University has noted.

The planned institute, a joint development led by the University, will provide Leeds City Region with a major hub for high-speed rail innovation in track infrastructure and dynamics, rolling stock technology and system integration. The institute is supported by joint investment from the University, West Yorkshire Combined Authority and other partners. The £13m is part of this investment.

To be located on a new University of Leeds development at the Leeds Gateway 45 Enterprise Zone to the east of the city, it will include state-of-the-art infrastructure and test facilities to unlock high-speed rail’s full potential regionally, nationally and globally.

The investment Committee backed £13 million of future funding from the Local Growth Fund for the Institute, which will also enable local people to access new skills and a wider range of jobs.

 Professor Peter Woodward,, Chair in High Speed Rail Engineering at the University told the committee’s meeting the institute would offer a “complete system” approach to high speed rail engineering, creating an unrivalled centre of excellence for high speed rail planning, design, construction and manufacturing in the UK.

Professor Lisa Roberts, the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, said:

“This is a very welcome investment in the institute, supporting the development and construction of the country’s high speed network.It will create jobs and skills opportunities, and positions the region and the UK as pioneers in modern high speed rail technologies.

“We will be drawing on the significant breadth of research strengths at Leeds and, combined with state-of-the-art test facilities, the institute will be a fantastic environment for academics and the rail industry to collaborate on research and innovation activities.”

Councillor Peter Box, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Investment Committee, said: “Developing the institute for High Speed Rail and System Integration with the University of Leeds will mean that the Leeds City Region, already at the cutting edge of the digital, manufacturing and innovation sectors, will be home to a unique research, innovation and training facility.

Professor Peter Jimack, Executive Dean for the Faculty of Engineering at the University, said: “We have already invested significantly in growing our world-leading expertise in this area and, in addition to the education and R&D that will be directly supported by these facilities, this investment with West Yorkshire Combined Authority provides the key to unlocking substantial new external investment into the institute and the region.”

Professor Peter Woodward was last year announced as a new Chair in High Speed Rail Engineering at the University of Leeds. The appointment of Professor Woodward, who was then  an industry sponsored Professor of High Speed Rail at Heriot-Watt University, came at an important time in the growth and development of the University and the City.

Professor Woodward is responsible for developing a new Institute for High Speed Rail Engineering at the University, using his expertise in geotechnical engineering to create a world leading research and innovation hub with an emphasis on train-track interaction and infrastructure systems.

This has been complementing other university-based research centres in the UK and responds to industry demand for undergraduate and postgraduate skills in railway engineering and other related areas. The Institute works with a range of international partners including Southwest Jiaotong University in China, where Leeds has opened a new Joint School.

A distinguished researcher, Professor Woodward has played a key role in developing the polymer based track stabilisation system known as XiTRACK, which has increased track speed and reduced maintenance costs in a number of rail networks.For example, this technology was used to stabilise the track bed at Clapham Junction, one of the busiest railway junctions in Europe with more than 2,500 trains passing through every day.

Announcing the appointment last year, Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: “We are very pleased to welcome Peter Woodward to the University of Leeds.

“Together with world leading experts in our Institute for Transport Studies, whose strengths include railway economics, policy and planning, and in Civil, Mechanical and Electronic and Electrical Engineering, he will work with industry partners and colleagues in other universities to provide unrivalled support for a modern rail network in the UK.”

Professor Woodward said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be appointed to the position of Professor of High Speed Rail Engineering at the University of Leeds.The University is one of the world’s top research-led universities and will play a major role in the development of the Northern Powerhouse.

“High Speed 2 will be of major economic benefit to the City of Leeds and the formation of this new Institute will enable new national and international collaborations, placing Leeds as a global go-to place for high speed rail research in a market that is expanding rapidly across the world.”

About Peter Woodward

Peter Woodward is the Atkins Professor of High Speed Railways (first ever UK sponsored chair in high-speed rail) and a former Director of the Institute for Infrastructure & Environment at Heriot-Watt University.

He has a First Class Honours Degree in Civil Engineering and a PhD in Geo-dynamics both from the University of Manchester. He is a Fellow of both the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Permanent Way Institution and a Chartered Engineer.

He was seconded part-time to the railway industry between 2001 and 2010 as the Technical Director of his own spin-out company and in 2016 was appointed as an Honorary Professor at Central South University, China. He has been the Principal Investigator on many research grants, including funding from the EPSRC, EU, TSB and industry.

He invented a unique patented railway track reinforcement system (XiTRACK) that has been used across the UK and overseas (including for the London 2012 Olympics).

This technique received the Highly Commended Award in the Innovation of the Year category at the National Rail Awards 2005, the Institution of Civil Engineers Webb Prize, 2008, the Network Rail Partnering Award 2014 and the Railway Industry Association Product Innovation of the Year 2015. It was also cited by the EPSRC as representing one of the impact case study highlights of the entire REF2014 exercise.

He has given invited Workshops and Keynote addresses at major international conferences across the world on railway track geo-dynamics at high-speed, transitions and track reinforcement.

He is a consultant to the railway industry, particularly on high speed ground dynamics and track reinforcement. He advises High Speed 2 on track geo-dynamics and his work is cited in HS2‘s Earthworks Specification Design Document. He also serves on the Network Rail Track Stiffness Working Group and the High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Group.

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