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Research and Development

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Through RSSB, the industry invests about £9m each year in a varied R&D programme.

The RSSB-managed research programme supports industry in:

  • Decision-making and learning
  • Identifying and sharing good practice
  • Reducing costs and carbon output
  • Increasing safety, capacity, performance, and customer satisfaction
  • Enhancing the industry’s environmental credentials
  • Engaging with UK universities and worldwide research bodies
  • Making outputs from research available

The programme supports a broad range of short- and long-term engineering, operations, and management activities that no one company or sector can solve on its own. It is primarily funded by the Department for Transport (DfT), with additional contributions from RSSB members and the European Union. Research partnerships and co-funding schemes bring added value to the programme.

Submitting a research idea

Anybody can submit a research idea within the scope of the R&D programme, using the research idea form.  These forms are reviewed by cross-industry groups to explore the likely benefits, develop a business case, and identify how the knowledge can be delivered effectively.

If you have a specific idea for a research project - whether you are from the railway industry, a potential supplier, or a member of the public - please complete an R&D Idea Form and email it to​. Please note that any research idea may be the subject of competitive tendering. 

Research projects

You can find information about all of the projects in the research programme that we manage for the industry through our research project catalogue page. The outputs from the research are available through SPARK External link, an access point to research conducted across Europe for the rail industry.

The industry's R&D programme has delivered a wide range of solutions and knowledge to improve the operation and engineering of the railway system, and supporting the people that make it work. The programme has evolved from being solely about safety to a broad portfolio of issues where industry wants to collaborate. The focus is on providing a solution to a problem or opportunity, and increasingly this does not always involve a conventional approach to R&D.

R&D supports industry's needs in a wide range of areas, from tactical incremental innovations, to long-term step changes in technology. It includes strategic research aimed at helping achieve the industry and government's long-term goals for the railway.

The programme regularly addresses:

  • Interface issues: engineering and operational interfaces within the railway, and interfaces with other parts of the community and society
  • System issues: improving understanding of how the whole railway behaves and the interactions of its constituent parts
  • Strategic issues: to support cross-industry planning and the development of the future vision and technical strategy of the railways and assess how that can and should be delivered
  • Many other issues that individual companies cannot address on their own, eg identifying good practice.

You can search our list of projects on the ​research project catalogue page.

Types of research

  • Developing models and other decision support tools
  • Improving understanding of, and developing the means of controlling, all types of business risk
  • Investigating the performance of railway systems, technologies, and people, and identifying the means of improving that performance
  • Identifying good practice, and developing the means of promulgating it
  • Developing improved mechanisms for the management and communication of knowledge
  • Developing improved mechanisms for communicating and engaging with the industry’s stakeholders
  • Carrying out horizon scanning, foresight, and scenario planning studies

Research that supports the technical strategy can be characterised as:

  • Concentrating on defined but broad-ranging subjects where it is possible to identify a need for improvement, but not necessarily the specific solutions
  • Addressing complex, multi-facetted problems
  • Likely to require innovative approaches
  • Areas where implementation may be many years ahead
  • Likely to involve complex modelling and/or proof of concept
  • Typically requiring strong industry collaboration.

This document is hosted on SPARK


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