The 11th edition of the World Conference on Railway Research started with a lively Welcome Reception on Sunday 29 May at the National Museum of Science and Technology - Leonardo Da Vinci and concluded with the WCRR 2016 Prize giving and Handover Ceremony on Wednesday 1 June, held in the historic city of Milan. This programme was followed by a day completed with very interesting technical visits on Thursday 2 June. These days opened with high-level plenary sessions followed by very interesting oral presentations. There were also many e-posters as well as many inviting exhibition stands.
The World Congress on Railway Research is the world’s foremost international forum for promoting, developing and exchanging the latest research from the global rail sector. The international community of railway companies, scientists and other stakeholders met in Milan to share their experience. Railway research and innovation involving operators, infrastructure managers and industry planners not only relate to technical matters, but also affect all the social, industrial and financial processes required to implement, build and offer customers services through higher-capacity, better-performing and more cost-effective rail systems. This was the aim of the WCRR 2016 with its theme “Research and Innovation from Today Towards 2050”. Encouraging all railway stakeholders to show and share what they do and thereby innovate their activities, aiming to deliver a better-performing, and more sustainable railway system that appeals more to new and existing customers, looking towards two horizons: long term vision and the near future.
The WCRR 2016 turned out to be the biggest ever rail conference, with over 1000 participants from more than 30 nations around the world, more than 300 speakers, papers, e-posters and proofs of concept.
The three moderated plenary sessions were focused on customers, market & competition, technology & innovation and research. Keynote speakers provided a strategic view of railway research and the latest innovations in the global rail industry.
In his opening speech, Mr Renato Mazzoncini, CEO of Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane Group, pointed out the challenges that the railways shall face in the near and far future: digitalisation, focus on the customer and accessibility of the railway system; he also underlined the need to create synergy between different transport modes in order to define an integrated mobility system in which the railways play a primary role.
As example of innovation, a specific seminar on the Hyperloop technology was hosted during the conference and the collaboration between different actors were highlighted by Mr Mazzoncini.
The Vision & Future sessions presented visionary consistent set of papers dealing with long term and far future applications, covering proposals and studies concerning what railway transportation and mobility will be like towards 2050. Innovative ideas on transport solutions dealing with future railway challenges covering eight main themes will be hosted in this session.
The Today’s Research sessions presented papers dealing with near future applications, covering ongoing research and innovative solutions developed to improve today’s railway transport and mobility. Both topics of applied and theoretical research, performed by all mobility stakeholders, were welcomed in these sessions.
Before the official handover of the WCRR organisation to the next host, a number of researchers were rewarded with a special WCRR Award. 11 Awards were presented, 8 for each of the categories as well as an award for the best presentation, the best e-poster, the best POC (Proof of Concept) and for the best Young Researcher, namely the best paper for a researcher under 30 years.
The awards for the best scientific papers and presentations were:
1. Rolling stock – USA – Evaluation of the freight brake system effectiveness using wheel temperature detectors
2. Infrastructure – France – Composite monoblock design of the catenary cantilever
3. Railway system – Belgium – Capacity 4 Rail: Objectives and Goals
4. Passenger mobility from door to door – Italy/France/UK – The open web of transportation data as a shared network environment for the realization of the single European railway area
5. Freight logistics – Germany – Smart telematics enabling efficient rail transport
6. Sustainability – Austria – The economic service life of track
7. Economics and policy – Taiwan – Forecasting ridership of railway systems by factoring interactions between railway facilities and land-use patterns
8. Operations and safety – Japan – The development and utilisation of the sleep self-management system for train drivers and conductors
The best Proof of Concept went to Italy for their POC “Paperless driving – tablet for train crew – project overview”.
The best e-poster Award went to China for their poster on “A post scanning system of railway station passengers based on biological characteristics identification”.
For the best young researcher prize in particular, our congratulations go to Roberto Tieri of the UIC for his paper “Implementation of automatic gauge changeover systems: available technical solutions, cost-effectiveness and standardisation”, developed in collaboration with Trenitalia, for the quality of scientific paper and of the presentation. The paper is linked to the homonymous UIC-OSJD project concluded in 2015 and points out the economic aspects for its implementation and the Standardisation for the Automatic Gauge Changeover System technology, as well as the technical solutions available today. The concept of International Railway Standards (IRS) was also presented as an essential tool to boost interoperability at worldwide level.
Before officially handing over, Marco Caposciutti, Chief Technology Officer at Trenitalia and Chairman of the Italian Organising Committee for the WCRR 2016 made his closing speech, looking back at the three days of the conference, giving some statistical data as well as mentioning a few highlight issues which he had picked up from the sessions gone by. He especially mentioned the following:
- Railways as a comprehensive system
- Digitalisation and big data systems in order to improve efficiency
- Attention to sustainability and environment in order to build a better and greener world
- How to increase the capacity of infrastructure (ERTMS high density/big cities, the use of satellites for signalling)
- Driverless trains (automatic train operator)
Closing the intensive three day programme was the WCRR Handover Ceremony in which Marco Caposciutti presented the chairman of the WCRR 2019 Organising Committee, Mr Fuminao Okumura, Executive Director of RTRI Railway Technical Research Institute of JR – Japan Railways with the special WCRR trophy containing the special logos of all past WCRRs. Mr Fuminao Okumura gladly accepted his new role and tasks and introduced a short video about Japan, Tokyo and the 2019 venue.
Special thanks also go to the WCRR 2016 Organising and Executive Committees (respectively chaired by Mr Caposciutti and Mr Guidi) for the preparation and coordination of the event.