University of Huddersfield – The Institute of Railway Research (IRR)

01484 472030

Company overview

The Institute of Railway Research (IRR) is a dedicated railway research centre, based at the University of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. Leading the way in railway engineering research, technology innovation, and development, it partners with academics and industry organisations to carry out impactful work across various engineering disciplines.

To date, this work has helped the rail industry to cut maintenance and operating costs, and improve safety and reliability.

Home to the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network’s Centre of Excellence in Rolling Stock, and boasting cutting-edge laboratories on-site, the centre focuses on issues shaping the industry – including sustainability, carbon reduction, and safety.

Led by Director Profession Paul Allen, the IRR is currently exploring:

  • Cost-effectiveness: how innovative manufacturing technologies, materials, maintenance systems, and condition monitoring can help rail operators to make cost savings.
  • Accelerating electrification: via research into more reliable and efficient overhead power distribution.
  • Vehicle track dynamics: including passenger comfort, wheel-rail contact, safety, and asset protection.
  • Overhead line and pantograph interaction dynamics
  • Rolling stock maintenance: supported by IRR’s smart rolling stock maintenance research facility.

State-of-the-art testing facilities

The IRR specialises in the interface between vehicles and track, working to ensure that it is as safe and cost-effective as possible. Supported by computer simulation tools and practical tests, its work in this area has helped to improve both vehicles and infrastructure.

The IRR’s work is supported by state-of-the-art facilities, including:

  • An adhesion and rolling contact laboratory dynamics rig, known as ‘HAROLD’.
  • The Centre of Excellence in Rolling Stock (CERS).
  • A high-speed pantograph testing rig.
  • Train Hi-fidelity On-board Motion Simulator (THOMoS).
  • A smart maintenance lab.
  • Scaled laboratory test rigs.
  • Track and vehicle measuring equipment.
  • High performance computing (HPC) system.

Areas of expertise

The IRR carries out groundbreaking research in:

  • Vehicle and track dynamics.
    Projects include an intelligent maintenance tool for Crossrail and track system and WRI performance for HS2.
  • Traction, braking and energy systems.
  • Pantographs and overhead systems.
  • Advanced safety management systems.
  • Condition monitoring and analytics.
  • Technology development and innovation.

Supporting the industry

The IRR supports a range of industry organisations, including Network Rail, Transport for London, The Rail Safety and Standards Board, Arup, Freightliner, and Balfour Beatty. Services include:

  • Railway vehicle dynamic simulation.
  • Wheel-rail interface engineering and asset management.
  • Testing – including on-vehicle, on-track, and laboratory.
  • Evidence-based safety and maintenance standard development.
  • Wheel-rail interface design assurance for new systems.
  • And more.