An expert in railway safety has joined the team at Huddersfield University’s Institute of Railway Research (IRR).
Work undertaken at the IRR aims to ensure that modern rail travel is fast, efficient, technically advanced and safe at a time when passenger numbers in the UK are increasing.
Now Dr Coen Van Gulijk, who has held key academic posts in his native Netherlands, has been appointed as IRR Reader in Railway Safety. He will head a rail safety and risk research programme tha links into a major partnership between the IRR and the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB).
Dr Van Gulijk, whose background is in engineering, will gather and analyse massive amounts of data about potential rail risks – to provide the railway industry with digital tools that give them rapid and cost-effective access to the information needed to ensure that operations are safe.
Dr Van Gulijk said his research could also help to speed up the adoption of new rail technologies.
“Because of the very stringent safety requirements in railways, it can be difficult to introduce new technology,” he said. “Railways are traditionally conservative, which is not a bad thing, because you want to use equipment that you are sure of.”
Now it hoped that the process of demonstrating the safety and reliability of a new technology can be streamlined as a result of the IRR’s work.
RSSB already maintains a “Safety Risk Model” that the rail industry uses to monitor risk and support decision-making. The research taking place at the university and headed by Dr Van Gulijk, aims to improve the industry’s risk modelling capability to further “support efficient safety decision making and thereby add value to the railway industry and society as a whole”.
Before his arrival at Huddersfield, Dr Van Gulijk was an assistant professor in safety science at the Delft University of Technology.
His early academic training was in chemical engineering and his PhD research dealt with diesel exhaust emissions.
At Dutch scientific research organisation TNO, he worked on the improvement of gas masks for military use and this helped to take him away from engineering to the safety sciences.
“It is a very broad area,” said Dr Van Gulijk. “Safety science is multi-disciplinary by definition and includes fields such as chemical safety, security and transport safety.”
But after working on very broad areas at Delft, he decided to return to more focussed research. Huddersfield University’s IRR has provided him with the opportunity for this and also to return to the field of engineering.
Prof Simon Iwnicki, director of the IRR, said: “I am delighted that Dr Van Gulijk has joined us.
“Through his industrial and academic experience he brings an important extra dimension to our expertise and capabilities.”