How can we reduce the vulnerability of the Dutch railway system to disruptions as much as possible? How can we best work with the railway sector and the various stakeholders involved? Under the name ExploRail, the NWO Division for the Social Sciences, Technology Foundation STW and ProRail are funding a series of PhD research projects that address these questions. Five million euros is available for the research: 2.5 million from ProRail and 2.5 million from STW and NWO. There are two research themes: Intelligent Rail Infrastructure and Whole System Performance.
The ExploRail programme is part of the Connecting Sustainable Cities research theme. It is also part of the new government innovation policy: the Logistics “top sector”.
Intelligent Rail Infrastructure
Five research proposals have been selected within the Intelligent Rail Infrastructure theme. These address question such as: how can we detect faults in the railway infrastructure in time? How can we compare maintenance programmes and select the best? Which data do we need to combine to produce useful and effective information on the condition of the railway infrastructure? What can we do to make a faster estimate of the duration of a fault? Which types of metal should we use to optimise the sustainability of the railway infrastructure?
Whole System Performance
Whole System Performance is concerned with creating a robust railway system, by influencing the interactions between the various railway stakeholders with their differing interests. First of all, how do the stakeholder relationships work in the railway sector, and what role can ProRail play in this? Secondly, how does this translate into mutual and joint agreements and indicators, and what does this mean for short-term and long-term investment decisions? Finally, how can ProRail ensure that it develops an organisational culture that effectively delivers a reliable and punctual railway system? Four research projects were established in this theme in late 2012.
Cooperation is an essential concept as far as ExploRail is concerned: not only between STW, NWO and ProRail, but also between:
- researchers and ProRail contractors;
- stakeholders in the railway system (Whole System Performance);
- ProRail and universities.
One reason why ProRail is prepared to invest in ExploRail is that ProRail always works in partnership with other stakeholders. A greater understanding of this process will result in better cooperation and help achieve the best possible results.