Premier announces SMART Rail Institute
Today’s announcement by NSW Premier Nathan Rees and Transport Minister David Campbell of $10 million in funding from RailCorp will ensure that the SMART Rail Institute will become the pre-eminent research and training institute for rail research and technology in Australia, according to UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gerard Sutton.
Professor Sutton said the Rail Institute would play a critical part in the overall development of the University of Wollongong’s SMART (Simulation, Modelling and Analysis for Research and Teaching) Infrastructure Facility now under construction at the University. This facility, which draws together UOW’s expertise in engineering, science, commerce and information technologies, will address Australia’s future infrastructure needs.
About 340 people from over the region over the next two years will be employed during the construction phase on the SMART Infrastructure Facility and today’s Rail Institute announcement will ensure that a further 25 permanent jobs will be created for the region when the institute is fully established. It is expected that a fully operational SMART Infrastructure Facility will result in about 150 ongoing jobs.
“Rail infrastructure is a critical cornerstone of the infrastructure needs of this state. We look forward to engaging with RailCorp to ensure that together we develop the rail specialists able to meet the future demands of this industry. We express our strongest gratitude to the Board of RailCorp, including its CEO Mr Rob Mason, for their foresight in providing this vital funding,” Professor Sutton said.
The institute will be headed by a Foundation Professor of Railway Engineering and will be overseen by a Management Committee which will include participants from RailCorp. This committee will monitor the overall strategic direction and operations.
“As part of its role, the institute’s research development activities will aid the development of rail-related course materials that we expect will enhance mainstream Bachelor of Engineering courses and also further strengthen rail-related postgraduate coursework offerings,” Professor Sutton said.
“Our students will be given opportunities to interact with RailCorp on many occasions including site visits, thesis topics and vacation employment for selected full-time engineering students.”
The Premier was in Wollongong to release an overall package in response to the Illawarra Jobs Summit held in Wollongong in April.
He told a gathering of regional representatives during an address in the McKinnon Building that the NSW Government was positioning the Illawarra as a knowledge-based economy.
He cited the development of the Innovation Campus and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute at UOW as clear examples of moving more in the direction of a knowledge-based economy.
Professor Sutton told the Premier that the $10 million announcement would be one of the best investments his government has made.
“This is a great outcome for the University and the region,” the Vice-Chancellor said.
Before leaving the campus, the Premier and Transport Minister were taken on a tour of current railway research taking place within the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences.
They were provided a run down on the latest research by Professor Buddhima Indraratna who is Director of the Centre for Geotechnical and Railway Engineering and the Wollongong Co-ordinator for the Co-operative Research Centre for Rail Innovation.
Professor Indraratna has recently returned from the United States after giving the Keynote Address on the current state of rail track technology at the International Transportation Conference on Roads, Railways and Airfields. It was at the invitation of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Chamaign (currently ranked number one in civil engineering in the US) and the US Federal Centre for Transportation Research, located in Urbana.
Professor Indraratna was introduced at the US conference as being the leader of a group of researchers who are at the forefront of rail research in the world. Since the mid 1990s after starting rail track research for the first time in an Australian university, every single PhD student in the rail track area in Australia has been a student of Professor Indraratna.
It is envisaged that the Rail Institute will develop excellence in key rail industry themes, several of which already exist at UOW (see key rail industry themes below):
Rail Institute to develop excellence in following key rail industry themes:
- System design -- (asset management, signalling, power supply and quality, scheduling and logistics);
- Below Rail Technology -- UOW is an acknowledged leader in geotechnical work, rail track stability and control, and ballast design which is supported by substantial engineering test equipment;
- Wheel/Rail interface -- including materials engineering for wheels and rails, and welding and joining technologies -- these are also current UOW strengths;
- Infrastructure Design, Modelling, Analysis and Visualisation -- UOW is currently building this substantial facility within SMART and it will be able to provide rail planners with state-of-the-art analysis and simulation facilities, and allow detailed cost benefit analyses, and the visualisation of alternative infrastructure designs and different operational paradigms;
- Rolling Stock Design -- including operation and maintenance, traction and automation. UOW is currently running training courses in these areas (eg for RailCorp);
- Occupational Health and Safety – including driver training, level crossings and signalling
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