Federal education and training minister Simon Birmingham has officially launched the University of Wollongong’s new rail training centre.
ITTC Rail is the shorthand for the new Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Advanced Technologies in Rail Track Infrastructure.
Set up to train the next generation of rail engineers, it is the first ever rail training centre to be funded by the Australian Government, with a $3.9 million ARC grant supported by an additional $3.4 million in contributions from the NSW Government and industry and university partners.
Headquartered at the University of Wollongong, ITTC Rail is designed to bring together rail track infrastructure expertise from all sectors of the industry, with eight universities and 11 national and international industry partners taking part.
“Given the dependency of the Australian economy on efficient heavy haul, there is a pressing need to upgrade ageing rail infrastructure by rejuvenating higher degree training with a new generation of engineers with advanced knowledge and practice skills,” ITTC Rail director Buddhima Indraratna said.
Professor Indraratna said improvements in the efficiency, reliability and cost-effectiveness of freight haulage can have significant flow-on benefits to the rest of the economy, increasing productivity in industries including agriculture, mining and manufacturing.
Commuter transport will also be included in ITTC Rail’s work, with a focus on how new materials, advanced manufacturing and innovative design and construction can benefit that sector.
“Australia also has some of the world’s heaviest as well as longest heavy-haul trains, exceeding four kilometres at times, with considerable challenges offered to railway engineers along problematic soil terrains,” Indraratna continued.
“Through specialist training of industry-focused researchers, ITTC Rail will meet the challenge of designing, constructing and maintaining the rail network.
“This will involve close collaboration with companies in the rail supply chain, programs to promote novel design approaches, and innovative fabrication of products using advanced manufacturing techniques.”
Minister Birmingham opened the training centre officially on May 23.
“Our commitment to rail infrastructure investment will generate jobs, ease congestion in our cities, increase the capacity of our freight routes and better connect regional areas,” the minister said.
“The Turnbull Government’s investment in the new training centre at the University of Wollongong will ensure Australia’s future workforce has the specialised skills and expertise to deliver on projects such as the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail, the Port Botany Rail Upgrade and the Melbourne Airport Rail Link.”
Universities contributing to ITTC Rail are University of Wollongong, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Sydney, Queensland University of Technology, Curtin University, University of Queensland, Western Sydney University and University of Newcastle.
Industry partners are the Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation, Metro Trains Melbourne, Bridgestone Corporation, Snowy Mountains Engineering Corp, Innovative Technology Beijing, China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group, Ecoflex International, Geofrontiers, Polyfabrics Australasia, Nu-rock Technology and Elasto-Plastic Concrete.