SUMMING UP three days of technical papers and wide-ranging debate on railway research, Transportation Technology Center Inc President Roy Allen had some advice for delegates attending the closing session of the 2001 World Congress on Railway Research in Köln on November 26-28: ’either contribute to the solution, or be part of the problem.’

Allen was echoing Germany’s Secretary of State for Research Dr-Ing Uwe Thomas, who had begun his opening speech two days earlier with similar words. More than 1000 delegates from 32 countries had taken part in the event, and Allen told them to ’forget the burdens of the past in looking to future railway systems’, urging that ’research must be sharply pointed to practical solutions’. ’Let us never catch ourselves saying we cannot do something because we have not done it that way before’, he warned.

Allen drew attention to the large number of papers dealing with rolling contact fatigue, one of which described the development of a rail with an additional surface layer applied to the head, partly to prevent RCF and partly to reduce flange squeal. Numerous papers addressed wheel-rail interaction, prompting Allen to plead for researchers to treat the railway as a system. He felt that in some fields there was ’still some duplication of work’, although this was ’not as bad as prior to WCRR’.

Philippe Renard, Head of Research at French National Railways, considered that until now research had failed to solve the railway’s ’old operating problems’ of capacity and the ’fluidity of traffic’. Thanks to the new generation of tools in IT and processing, he believed that ’now we have the possibility to deal with them’. He attributed ’many of our service quality problems’ to the inability to reprogram complex situations, but ’new understanding’ allows us to replan paths ’as if they were planned like that originally.’

Maglev developments

Several papers reported on progress with the high speed maglev projects in Japan and Germany. Transrapid is hopeful of finding a route for a domestic application of its technology, with a paper reporting that the three-section TR08 vehicle had now travelled 115000 km on the Emsland test track, reaching a maximum speed of 408 km/h; the vehicle weighs 189 tonnes.

In Japan, further progress at the Yamanashi test track is expected with the announcement that two new types of vehicle will be built. These are a MLX01-901 leading car with a very long nose to improve aerodynamics, and a centre car forming ’a prototype for revenue service’. A new guideway configuration is also planned with sidewalls in the shape of an inverted T, and a different design for the ground coils that can be attached to the guideway in a single layer, so reducing costs compared with the double-layered arrangement currently installed.

European research

The announcement on November 26 of the formation of the European Rail Research Advisory Council (p7) suggests that research and development work within Europe may be more co-ordinated in the future. European Commissioner for Research Philippe Busquin pointed out that the EU is contributing €250m towards various railway research projects, citing 40 schemes with over 200 partners.

Busquin believed that rail’s decline was not an inherent problem, but had been brought about as a result of political priorities; the success of high speed passenger services had shown that rail can be well attuned to the needs of our time, he said.

Of particular note were the high expectations being placed on the rail mode to help solve the world’s transport problems. Outgoing WCRR Organising Committee Chairman Roland Heinisch of DB Netz highlighted this, noting that ’the whole world has a problem with transport, with great expectations placed on rail’. He saw the need for research in stations, information technology and freight traffic rather than in high speed, as in the recent past. But he was sure it would pay for itself: ’railway research is an investment in the future’, he said.

Winding up the event, newly-elected Chairman of the Organising Committee Rod Muttram of Britain’s Railway Safety announced that the next WCRR will be held in Edinburgh in autumn 2003 with the theme of ’Birth to Renaissance - Revitalising Conventional Rail’.

CAPTION: At WCRR 2001 East Japan Railway Chairman Masatake Matsuda outlined plans for technological development following the opening of his company’s own R&D centre in December at Omiya, north of Tokyo. Already in hand is the development of a prototype advanced train for Tokyo commuter services with articulation and direct drive synchronous motors. Matsuda also hinted at an increase in speed for JR East’s shinkansen services, possibly beyond 300 km/h.