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Regional railway transport research and training centre foundation

Final Report Summary - RRTC (Regional railway transport research and training centre foundation)

The 'Regional railway transport research and training centre foundation' (RRTC) project was aimed at establishing an international organisation that should integrate the scientific and educational potential for developing sustainable railway transport in the Balkan countries. Although called regional, the association registered under the same name, 'Regional research and training centre for transport' (RRTC), is open for membership of all relevant institution from Europe and other regions.

The preparatory stage included on-line and on-site surveys on similar organisations and studies on the state and perspectives of the Balkan railways and transport systems. The results were used to prepare the RRTC constituent documents, the statute and program. The development of the human resources database gave a possibility to create working and expert groups for joint research and new projects. The interpersonal contacts were intensified by the system of on-line registration for membership in the centre.

The main activities accomplished under the project expanded the collaboration of universities and research institutes in the region and facilitated the centre foundation. The core team encouraged networking in the field of transport research and training in the Balkan countries and managed to transfer part of the established interpersonal relations to an institutional level. The VTU signed agreements on academic cooperation with the University Politehnica in Bucharest (Romania) and the Faculty of Maritime Studies and Transport in Portoroz (Slovenia), renewed the contacts with the Faculty of Transport Engineering in Belgrade (Serbia), started negotiations with the Suleyman Demirel University in Isparta (Turkey) and initiated information exchange with the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki (Greece). It also became a member of the Transport Engineering section of the International Academy of Architecture based in Pardubice (Czech Republic) and was invited to participate in the organisation of transport faculties in Europe. It is a sign of high acknowledgement that both the Rector and Vice-rector were included in the scientific committee of the International Scientific Symposium on Cooperation of Transport Faculties in Seventh Framework (FP7) projects in Warsaw on 18-19 October 2007.

The RRTC project supported two of the most attractive and most influential scientific forums in the region, the15th International Conference Transport 2005 and the 16th International Conference Transport 2006 organised by the VTU in Sofia that made possible for many scientists from the region to present their research results and find partners for joint investigations and collaboration. Thanks to the contribution of the project the core team members and other teachers from the partners' institutions attended prestigious national and international events, published over 50 papers and a number of books, took part in specialised seminars, workshops, exhibitions, meetings, etc.

The activities under the project enriched also the forms of cooperation between the partners' institutions. They included teachers' mobility for delivering lectures and participation in scientific councils, commissions for diploma paper assessment and chairing scientific sessions, reviewing books, exchanging of teaching materials, etc.

As a whole, the activities under the RRTC project increased the public interest to research and training capacities of both the coordinator and partner. The core team members were involved as experts in many national projects and practical tasks for improving the rolling stock and traffic safety in Bulgaria and Serbia and were invited as lecturers in lifelong learning courses at transport companies and industry. Besides on a national level, the project attracted also the attention of some foreign companies, which declared their intention to collaborate with the centre and took part in its activities. The representatives of Alstom participated in the project meeting on the centre program and offered a number of internships for the VTU's students and the WAGO company joined the Information day in Sofia.

As a result of the core team policy to encourage the scientists and expert groups to develop new projects with partners from the EU and especially from the region, the VTU developed another successful project.

The main difficulties experienced with the RRTC work program implementation concerned the impossibility to create a strategy for university and qualification courses. Due to the coincidence of the project period and the process of program accreditation at the VTU and MFK, it turned more appropriate to direct the team efforts to successful completion of accreditation. Their help was of great significance because the established contacts made possible to accomplish the required comparative approach by providing curricula and exchanging 'good practices' in the neighbouring Balkan countries.

Another real achievement of the project was the start of a new MSc program at the VTU (Automated design in manufacturing). Because of its universal contents, it can be further adopted as a joint university course for transport staff training in the region. Despite the intention to implement a more ambitious program of transport staff lifelong learning, the project team managed to organise only two courses in Sofia and Kraljevo.

The project was widely disseminated in the region and Europe. Besides on the information days in Bulgaria and Serbia and in the special papers and presentations at scientific and public events, the RRTC activities were analysed and highly assessed in many other publications concerning the partners' institutions. The RRTC had become known in the scientific community from the Balkan and other countries much before its official registration that was demonstrated by the increasing interest in membership.

It was through this project that VTU and MFK proved the efficiency of regional cooperation in the field of transport research and training and were rewarded with the acknowledgement of the European scientific community as reliable partners in projects. The VTU was included as a potential partner in five project proposals under the FP7 and the MFK has started negotiations with the European Commission on its independent project under Call REGPOT-2007-1 (proposal name: Strengthening of railway vehicles Center of Faculty of Mechanical Engineering Kraljevo; proposal acronym: Service).

Finally, it should be underlined that the RRTC project had also high social and political effect. Although it referred to transport and especially railways, due to the significance of both research and education, its impact went far beyond that sector. As a whole, the project contributed both to the processes of reintegration in the Balkan region and to the EU research policy implementation.

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