THE BIRMINGHAM Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) and the Rail Alliance have officially announced the formal integration of the two organisations.

The bodies say the move sets out ‘a powerful new approach’ in which industry and academia work in partnership to address real railway challenges. Rail Alliance becomes a specialist division of BCRRE providing B2B business support and networking for the rail sector, based on its community of over 400 organisations spanning the supply chain.

Rail Alliance previously operated as a subscription organisation, but its relaunch marks the move to free membership. This is described by BCRRE and Rail Alliance Managing Director Alex Burrows as ‘Open to all sectors as long as you can demonstrate that you have the potential to bring something to this rich mix and community’. As part of its development Rail Alliance is to make a significant investment in its home site at the Quinton Rail Technology Centre, Long Marston, in order to create a ‘go to’ facility for testing.

BCRRE is one of three centres of excellence within the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN), specialising in digital systems. The centre has over 150 academic and professional services staff and over 500 postgraduate students and is preparing to move into a new building in the summer of 2020, which it says will provide world-class facilities for research, education and innovation as part of the larger UKRRIN network.

Following on from the integration, 22 March saw the launch of the Digi-Rail project. Partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the project aims to provide long-term innovation support to eligible small and medium enterprises (SMEs) within the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) areas on developing digital products and services for the rail industry. Tony Miles