Passengers are set to benefit from a railway that can better cope with extreme weather and increased demand thanks to millions of pounds of investment in research.

Network Rail has pledged the funding to work with universities to improve research and development that will ultimately lead to better train services in the latest example of innovation on the railway.

Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, opened the cutting-edge National Infrastructure Laboratory at University of Southampton on 27 September.

He said the company wanted to more quickly get innovation from idea to track to give passengers a more reliable and resilient railway.

Andrew said: “We know that, above all, passengers want a reliable railway and to be looked after when things don't go to plan. Our railway is growing, but it’s congested and ageing, and we’re also dealing with more frequent incidents of extreme weather. We quickly need ideas and technology to help us meet these challenges.

“Universities are a critical source of innovation for the rail infrastructure of the future, and a stronger relationship allows us to come up with faster, better solutions than we could ever do without their support.”

Watch this video about the ElevArch technique and demonstrator – an exciting example of innovation on the railway:

Pioneering trial for solar-powered trains

How we moved a river: re-routing a waterway and protecting the environment

Growing appetite for investment in our railway

The National Infrastructure Laboratory at the University of Southampton provides major new facilities, including a large structures testing lab that can test how rail tracks cope with hundreds of thousands of trains, measured in just a few days.

Andrew said: “The laboratory will increase our ability to keep trains running in the face of extreme weather, reduce infrastructure failures and downtime for repairs, and reduce the cost to the taxpayer of maintenance. It will make it easier to test new ideas, realistically test the demands of heavy rail use, and speed up the delivery of essential improvements.

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretarysaid“We are putting passengers at the heart of the railways, delivering the improvements to punctuality, comfort and customer service they expect.

“A key part of improving our railways is ensuring the latest, cutting-edge technology is being developed and used across the network, cutting delays and strengthening resilience. Investing in innovation in the present will only improve the lives of passengers in the future.”