INTRO: With international delegates in attendance from all sectors of the railway industry and academia, the World Congress on Railway Research provides an opportunity to network with colleagues and industry peers

BYLINE: Len Porter

Chairman, WCRR 2003 Organising Committee

THE ORGANISING Committee is proud to host the 6th World Congress on Railway Research, to be held in the Edinburgh International Conference Centre from September 28 to October 1.

The theme of this year’s Congress is ’From Birth to Renaissance’, reflecting the challenges of maintaining and regenerating existing railways as well as the implementation of new initiatives. The event will focus on assessing the new technologies being developed to tackle these problems.

The world’s railways face considerable challenges: customers want progressively improved service quality, governments seek to lower costs, capacity is at a premium, and environmentalists demand noise reduction and better energy use.

Achieving all of these within a complicated, inter-related railway system presents an enormous challenge. Increasing service frequency enhances customer appeal, but carries the risk of lower overall reliability and reduces the opportunity for track maintenance.

WCRR will emphasise the practical application of research, and the event is an excellent opportunity to understand the issues and to share best practice. Long-term strategy in research is vital for the introduction of new technologies and progress on all parts of the rail system: performance and safety, comfort and quality of service, reliability, IT and communications, cost reduction, energy use, and the effect on the environment. I hope that the Congress will be an excellent forum for research centres to co-operate at an international level, pooling resources and results of research.

There is much to learn from what is happening elsewhere in the world. For example, the Japanese are often quoted as good examples of reliability, the French of high speed, the Americans and Australians of heavy haul, and the British of commercially-led increases in traffic on conventional railways.

Delegates at the Congress will have the opportunity to discover more about the application of new technologies developed in other countries. For example, the use of artificial vision to detect problems on trains or infrastructure, artificial intelligence to facilitate recovery of service, satellite location of vehicles and their contents, and modern communications capabilities for providing real-time customer information.

The Congress will provide knowledge in some of the areas which limit progress, and we will see new views on enduring issues. How can modern measuring and data analysis processes help improve the quality of tracks when there are fewer opportunities for maintenance? How can trains approach road vehicle reliability at an affordable cost? How can more trains per hour be run on complex networks without sacrificing reliability? These are all questions which will be discussed and debated.

As loads, speeds and service intensities increase, the interaction between vehicles and infrastructure becomes more critical. The Congress will address these critical areas of interaction, presenting new ideas about vehicle ride, track quality, rolling contact fatigue, noise, aerodynamics and electromagnetic compatibility.

Alongside the technical advances, we will see a continuing need to ensure that people and safety are properly considered in the march forward.

The number of areas to be covered during the WCRR is substantial. At a time when railway research budgets in almost all countries are being reduced, and many major research institutes are being privatised or drastically cut back, there is more need than ever before for the international railway community to pool its knowledge. The high level of advance bookings for WCRR 2003 clearly demonstrates the enthusiasm and worldwide interest in railway research. I look forward to welcoming you in Edinburgh.

CAPTION: Delegates to WCRR will be able to visit the Forth Bridge, where advanced techniques are being deployed to combat corfosion