Japan's railways began some 130 years ago with the introduction of railway technologies from Europe and the USA, which were already advanced in this field. Japan's social needs and geographical conditions were suitable for the spread of railways and thus Japan's railways developed in their own original way. The practical implementation of the Shinkansen bullet train in particular stimulated the world's railways and contributed to their development. The Japanese National Railways (JNR), which used to be the core of Japan's railways, was split and privatized in 1987, and the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI), which was established the previous year, in December 1986, took over the R&D functions of the Japanese National Railways. In addition to performing railway technology-related research and development that ranges from basic to applied, RTRI also emphasizes international activities such as technological exchanges with railway companies throughout the world and technical assistance. RTRI's recent international activities are outlined below.
Relationships with UIC & WEC
The Union Internationale des chemins de Fer (UIC) is an international organization that was jointly established by a number of railway companies from around the world to develop railway transport. It is headquartered in Paris, France, and is active in many fields including passengers, freight, technology, infrastructure, and the environment. Another organization is the World Executive Council (WEC), an organization established in 1995 within UIC for the purpose of disseminating UIC's activities, which used to be Europe-centered. In addition to monitoring international railway-related trends by sending staff to UIC, RTRI, which is a UIC member, participates in UIC's general meetings held in the fall of each year, and RTRI executives also participate in WEC, where they exchange information with other executives of UIC member railway companies. RTRI also participates along with East Japan Railway Company (JR East) in WEC's joint research projects, engaging in research to promote railway technologies from around the world.
Participation in International Conferences
Recently, a large number of railway-related international conferences, ranging from small-scale ones that focus on specialized fields, to large ones such as the World Congress on Railway Research (WCRR) and Eurail Speed, are being held. RTRI actively participates in such international conferences, where its executives and experts give lectures, present papers, and so on. In particular, RTRI is active as a member of the Organizing Committee of the World Congress on Railway Research (WCRR), an international congress that came into being as a consequence of an RTRI-sponsored international seminar held in Tokyo in 1992. WCRR, which was held on the fourth time under the auspices of RTRI in Tokyo, Japan, in 1999, and on the sixth time in Edinburgh, U.K., last year (2003), has become known as an international congress whose principal focus is the current state of railway-related research and technological development. The next WCRR will be in Montreal, Canada, in June 2006.
Joint Development, Technology Exchanges, and Technical Cooperation with Overseas Railway Companies and Other Organizations
In addition to joint research with UIC/WEC as previously mentioned, RTRI also performs joint research with the Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais (SNCF), the China Academy of Railway Science (CARS), and the Korean Railroad Research Institute (KRRI) on themes of mutual interest. RTRI also participates in professional conferences organized by the Land, Infrastructure and Transportation Ministry in conjunction with Britain, India, China, the USA, etc., to deepen exchanges, and upon requests from the Japan Railway Technical Service (JARTS ) and other bodies, cooperates on the dispatch of experts overseas, technical assistance, and so on. In the USA in particular, RTRI concluded a cooperation agreement with Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI) regarding the use of the test track in Pueblo, Colorado, and has been conducting gauge changeable train running tests and other types of tests there.
Diffusion of Information to Overseas
RTRI publishes the Quarterly Report (QR) in English to present its research results overseas. However, QR is published only four times a year, so RTRI has also begun issuing the newslettergRailway Technology Avalancheh that introduces in a timely manner various research and development topics in English that will be of interest for overseas readers. RTRI's website also provides summaries of RTRI reports and major research results in English.
Through a large range of international activities such as those described above, RTRI aims to contribute to the development of the world's railways.