Rail

The Midlands is at the heart of global transport technologies, with OEM’s from Aston Martin and Bombardier, through to Jaguar Land Rover and Rolls-Royce designing and manufacture here.

We have over 200 years of experience in building trains and railways. As home to Europe’s largest rail cluster, we are well placed to deliver high-speed rail, light rail, and digital technologies. The Midlands is a hotspot for R&D activity in transport technologies. Our rail supply chain includes expertise in rolling stock design, development and manufacture, infrastructure and consultancy services and systems and signalling.

Derby is the UK home of Bombardier Transportation and continues to be a major centre of rail technology in the UK. The Midlands Metro and Nottingham Metro showcase the latest tram and light rail technology.

The Midlands has five rail test centres, including Rail Innovation and Development Centres in the East Midlands. The Quinton Rail Technology Centre is a leading centre for light rail technology, including a new £1m tram facility. A very light rail innovation centre is also planned in the West Midlands.

High Speed 2 (HS2), at £55bn, is one of the world’s largest programmes in high-speed rail. The UK is also investing heavily in conventional and light rail renewal and expansion, as well as improved stations and infrastructure. The leading supply chain and central location of the Midlands makes it an excellent base to access rail projects across the UK.


The Midlands’ rail eco-system includes rolling stock OEMs, consultancy and R&D, test facilities, infrastructure construction services, signal and software systems, university rail research departments and rail centres of excellence. The region’s advanced manufacturing strength means a highly-skilled talent pool is readily available.

Midlands rail OEMs include: Alstom, CAF, Hitachi, Severn Lamb, Siemens and Viva Rail. Our OEMs and local supply chain can design, manufacture, assemble and test new trains for domestic and export markets. Bombardier’s AVENTRA was wholly designed and developed in the UK following significant research and consultation with industry stakeholders.

In very light rail, Severn Lamb and Transport Design International won the ‘Global Light Rail Awards 2016’ for a train provided for a Turkish client in 18 months from conception to delivery.

Highlights of current activity include:
UKRRIN is a partnership between the rail supply industry and a consortium of eight universities that has secured £92 million to create three linked world-class centres of excellence in Digital Systems, Rolling Stock and Infrastructure.

WMG at the University of Warwick is exploiting its understanding of light-weighting and energy storage from automotive to develop the Revolution VLR train, which promises to deliver mass transit at a fraction of the cost of conventional rail.

Mirage Services are currently working with Network Rail to develop a new Induction Rail Welding plant which is set to become a game changer in the high-speed rail industry.

The Dynex Rail Innovation Unit is providing solutions to avoid component obsolescence and working on predictive maintenance to reduce breakdowns.

Number of companies & size of talent pool in the Midlands:

Employees Companies
Rail 9,400 180

University strengths

The Midlands has over 20 universities, many active in advanced manufacturing and engineering, including rail R&D.

The High Value Manufacturing Catapult based in WMG at the University of Warwick, focuses on providing solutions for low carbon mobility, de-risking innovation in the following areas light weighting and advanced propulsion systems for example. The group is a partner in the new £28m very light rail (VLR) innovation centre and rail line planned at Dudley.

Keele University has significant expertise in rail technology based on mathematical modelling of auto and railway dynamics.

Centres of Excellence

The Midlands has a long-established reputation for ingenuity and innovation and is home to six mainline rail-linked test and R&D facilities, including:

  • The RTC Business Park a major rail technology site, home to 30 rail industry businesses including Atkins, RVEL, Hitachi Information Control Systems Europe Ltd.
  • The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) brings academia and industry together. Rail partners include ABB, London underground, Bosch Rexroth, AMEY, Thales, and Babcock.
  • The Transport Systems Catapult helps UK businesses to develop solutions to public transport and freight needs. It is the UK’s technology and innovation centre for transport modelling and monitoring.

Incubators & Accelerators

The Midlands is an excellent location for start-up and scale-up entrepreneurs with a range of business incubators and serviced offices to choose from. Some are aimed at the rail sector and transport engineering, and others at newer digital technologies. Here is a small selection:

Based on the RTC Business Park, the iD Centre is ideally located for rail, engineering, aerospace, and technology businesses. It is a business incubation centre run by the University of Derby, providing high-quality accommodation and comprehensive business support to SMEs.

The Serendip Smart City Incubator at iCentrum, Birmingham, co-locates promising start-up businesses with large, existing commercial partners. Entrepreneur Development Managers from major banks use local ecosystems to help make entrepreneurs credible and investable.

The Innovation Birmingham Campus is home to many transport innovators, incubators & accelerators, with a particular focus on rail tech. Recent examples include BlockMark working with Go-Ahead Group & LM Rail Tech Innovation Labs on Ticketty Boo – the Future of Ticket Detection (FTD) – applying blockchain technology to the challenge of frictionless ticketing.

The Techno Centre at Coventry University hosts several technology SMEs, and larger companies seeking to co-locate with tech companies in a city location, next to the National Transport Design Centre, CAF Rail and NEM Solutions are among its tenants.

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