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Rail Infrastructure Systems Engineering Network

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - RISEN (Rail Infrastructure Systems Engineering Network)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2021-09-30

Social and economic growth, security and sustainability in Europe are at risk of being compromised due to aging and failing railway infrastructure systems. This partly reflects a recognised skill shortage in railway infrastructure engineering. This project, RISEN, aims to enhance knowledge creation and transfer using both international and intersectoral secondment mechanisms among European Advanced Rail Research Universities/SMEs and Non-EU, world-class rail universities including the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (USA), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), Tsinghua University, Southwest Jiaotong University (China), Iranian University of Science and Technology, University of Sao Paulo (Brazil), Japan Railway Technical Research Institute, and University of Wollongong (Australia). This project adds research skill mobility and innovation dimension to existing bilateral collaborations between universities through research exchange, joint research supervision, summer courses, international training and workshops, and joint development of innovative inventions. It spans over 4 years from April 2016 to March 2020.

RISEN aims to produce the next generation of engineers and scientists needed to meet the challenge of providing sustainable, smart and resilient railway infrastructure systems critical for maintaining European competitiveness. The emphasis will be placed on the resilience and adaptation of railway and urban transport infrastructures using integrated smart systems. Such critical areas of the research theme will thus be synergised to improve response and resilience of rail infrastructure systems to climate change, extreme events from natural and human-made hazards, and future operational demands. In addition, researchers will benefit from the co-location of engineering education, training and research alongside world-class scientists and industry users through this initiative. Lessons learnt from rail infrastructure management will be shared and utilised to assure integrated and sustainable rail transport planning for future cities and communities.
The goal of RISEN is to establish research networks and staff exchange focused on the research themes to improve response and environmental resilience of rail infrastructure systems to climate change, extreme events from natural and human-made hazards, and future operational demands. Up to the end of the period covered by the report, 111 months of actual secondments or (43% of total secondments) have been carried out in both thematic researches of infrastructure resilience and advanced condition monitoring.

Efforts were made to ensure that the research and technical content of RISEN can benefit from results of on-going international and EU research collaboration agenda. 15 of RISEN researchers have been working in the technology strategy (as seen in Tasks 2.1 and 3.1). The staff exchange in the infrastructure resilience theme (Tasks 2.2 2.3 and 2.4) with 10 RISEN researchers can build shared lessons learnt in the industry as well as facilitate original and unified solutions to the practical problems. 7 RISEN researchers are working on novel smart sensors, wireless technologies, and on-board monitoring technology (Tasks 3.2 3.3 and 3.4).

2 Training Workshops, 2 STEM Activities and 2 research conferences were successfully organized. In terms of scientific impacts, 111 open-access technical publications (46 referred journal articles, 65 conference papers) have been published. RISEN has been recognized by the European Commission's Innovation Radar as 'Excellent Innovations' in March 2018.
For the rail transport system users, the impact of RISEN project is that the rail users can be comfortable and confident of their safety when travelling with rail services.

For the passenger rail service providers, the impact of RISEN is to offer a holistic picture of the European Rail Transport System and the opportunities the holistic view offers. RISEN outcomes can identify further strategic research and innovation needs for enhancing future rail capacity and adaptability to climate change and extreme events. They will improve the existing research potential in Europe and worldwide where systems thinking approach has not sufficiently been integrated to the fundamental concept of optimised asset management.

For freight rail transport, RISEN can provide practical guideline for advanced condition monitoring where the effective freight monitoring can result in substantial time and cost savings in freight transport. The preventative measure to mitigate the risk of prolonged extreme weather conditions or natural disasters on rail infrastructure can prevent significant losses. This is because freight logistics operators have limitations in their flexibility to switch the transport mode. The proposed summer courses will not only transfer the knowledge back to industry quickly, but they will also generate further discussions for further research and development.

For infrastructure maintenance providers, the impact of RISEN will be very substantial. This is because the full exposure of rail infrastructure resilience and advanced condition monitoring will enable a better understanding of the critical maintenance, renewal and retrofit needs. When overall control of maintenance resources is within a single provider (typically, when a Ministry of Infrastructure can influence the resource allocation across transport modes), the guidebooks provided by RISEN can offer practical solutions as to how to respond to changing operational demand, weather condition, and risks towards extreme events in an optimal way. In the case of disintegrated maintenance services (typically by rail transport mode or a rail network), the increased interaction through RISEN dissemination activities and guidebooks will offer an evidence-based platform of discussion and exchange of information and knowledge including cross-disciplinary and systems considerations. RISEN will provide the up-to-date research outcomes and technologies to monitor and mitigate emerging risks.

For national and EU level decision-makers, the overall impact of RISEN is a result of several outcomes each RISEN activity will produce. The biggest impact is the fact that for the first time a decision-maker can easily access the variety of updated information and research outcomes generated. On the one hand, the compilation of impacts of extreme weather and natural and man-made hazards on European rail transport system with the short-term and long-term solutions can be used as a guideline for insurance risk and investment planning in the future. This is of relevance, when contrasted with information of costs at European and national scale, obtained from the INNOTRACK project. For decision-makers, this can provide basis of cost-benefit assessment of investment options, taking into consideration the systems level impacts of the planned investment alternatives. These impacts can dramatically change the ways of interaction in the public-private-people context. The fact that the future changes in weather for 2040 and 2070 (forecasted in the other project) will also assist in guideline on the resilience to climate change and the long-term impact mitigation. Such a planning horizon will have a major advantage for the decision-makers and enable long-term usefulness of the RISEN project.