Interview with dr inż. Andrzej Żurkowski,
director of the Railway Research Institute
Employees of the Railway Research Institute, being a scientific research unit, take interest in a very wide range of subjects. This is what your offer tells us. The institute comprises numerous specialist departments, laboratories and centres. Are any areas predominant in the works of the Institute?
Since it was established, the Railway Research Institute has been dealing with all technical, technological and organisational issues related to rail transport and in particular railways. Technological development in the railway sector requires that our experts must be up to date with technical solutions already used in the railway industry and those that are still being developed. Experience acquired over many years shows that some areas are particularly current in specific periods and they somehow necessitate intensive involvement in selected topics. For example, reference is made to: interoperability, implementation of ERTMS (European Railway Traffic Management System) or new traction supply systems. It does not change the fact that the market needs up-to-date knowledge in practically all fields related to rail transportation.
In August 2016 the Railway Research Institute joined the small group of research units in Europe offering ERTMS/ETCS Level 1 testing. Why is this club so select?
- Introducing the ERTMS is the fundamental condition for interoperability of railways. In the future the system will facilitate railway traffic throughout Europe gradually replacing various cab signalling systems. From the technical point of view this is a very advanced system and it requires innovative technical knowledge, experience and expensive research facilities. We are included in this select group because we represent the highest level of advancement in these three areas in Poland. For more than ten months we have carried out a project to create a modern base for ERTMS testing on an experimental track in Żmigród. It refers to the already installed ETCS (European Train Control System) Level 1 and the ETCS Level 2 ready for implementation as well as GSR (Global Symposium for Regulators).
The Institute is attempting to be an ambassador of modernity and innovation. What does it mean in practice?
Contemporary requirements that railway transport has to face include, in particular, increased train speed, in particular in passenger traffic and, and increased level of safety. These are very serious challenges which need innovative solutions. The Railway Research Institute is a leader in the Polish market having the largest research and scientific base.
What are the benefits related to international cooperation of the Institute with foreign notified bodies, research institutes and universities?
One of the main tasks of railway transport is performance of international carriages. The need for international cooperation of railways in this area was recognised in 1922 when the International Union of Railways (UIC) was established in Paris. Polish railways were a founding member of this organisation. Thanks to the activities of UIC many technical and organisational standards were consolidated. These works have been continued by the European Union under the interoperability scheme. For obvious reasons collaboration is also applicable to research and development. The Railway Research Institute, as a consequence of excluding it from the structures of the Polish State Railways and transformation of this enterprise, is an immediate part of UIC as its affiliate member. We work closely with foreign universities, thanks to which we can exchange experiences and complement our knowledge of innovative transport solutions in the international context and actively participate in foreign seminars and conferences. The Advanced Rail Technologies (ART), an international conference we have organised for five years, is very popular among foreign participants including numerous speakers. We have worked with many universities and institutes both in Poland and abroad: in Belgium, Belarus, Czech Republic, France, Spain, South Korea, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, USA and the United Kingdom. A specific area of cooperation is exchange of experience between research centres having their own experimental tracks at their disposal. There are only eight of them in the world. Representatives of those centres were invited in 2016 by the Railway Research Institute to the scientific conference Railway Test Rings on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the test track in Żmigród.
In December 2016 you were elected Vice-President of the IRRB (International Railway Research Board) appointed by UIC. Without any doubt, it is a testimonial both for you and for the Institute.
I am very happy with this appointment which to a great extent is a result of my long-term cooperation with UIC, as an expert representing the Railway Research Institute and previously the Polish State Railways. For thirty six years I have been a member of many working theme groups, scientific committees of the world congresses of High Speed Railways and vice-chairman of the passenger forum of UIC. The appreciation for my knowledge was expressed in the proposal of teaching cooperation with universities and other foreign centres.
The Institute has a considerable publishing output. The scientific magazine Problemy Kolejnictwa (Railway Issues) has been published for more than fifty years.
The huge output of Problemy Kolejnictwa has been created by a few generations of employees of our Institute, previously the Main Centre for Railway Technology Testing and Development, and later Railway Scientific and Technical Centre. Over fifty years, 171 issues of Problemy Kolejnictwa have been published. With regard to a high requirement of scientific and technical publications in this field, the quarterly has been adapted to the expectations of the present-day market. The editorial board is international and the materials are published both in Polish and in the so-called congress languages (e.g. English, Russian). The Railway Research Institute has also published specialist monographs collecting contemporary technical knowledge of various applications of technology in the railway sector. Our activities are reported on an ongoing basis in Prace Instytutu Kolejnictwa (Works of the Railway Research Institute) – a publication mostly for Polish readers – as well as on our website and Facebook. Once in a quarter we issue an electronic newsletter in English entitled Advanced Rail Technologies. Two hundred copies are distributed to selected addressees. The newsletters are also available on our Institute’s website.