For long years, the railway industry has been positioned as a matured industry. It is also pointed out that researches related to railways have saturated. In the rapidly changing social circumstances where frequently a life-or-death question is a topic for enterprises, railways are making efforts to meet the diversified social needs in their transport service. As a result, it is no exaggeration to say that the railway industry is fighting a good fight among different industries. This remark is partly supported by its stance to have promoted technological development while positioning itself as a technological service industry. Some railway companies are organizing their own research institutes in the belief that research and development are essential to develop railway businesses further.
Under the circumstances, the Railway Technical Research Institute in Japan(RTRI) is expected to play a vital role as a comprehensive research institute. The objects of research and development diversify and become increasingly difficult to challenge. Therefore, RTRI must screen research themes to effectively utilize its resources.
RTRI is required to have the viewpoints mentioned below and promote the following subjects of several important keywords.
Environment: Research and development must be continued further to make railways, which are recognized as an environment-friendly transport facility, compatible with the environment. It is essential to investigate the phenomena of noise, vibration and other basic problems related to environmental pollution, which requires the improvement of the technologies for measurement and analysis. One of the subjects to be promoted by RTRI is to establish a method to comprehensively evaluate the loads acting on the environment. It is also important to determine accelerated test methods to confirm the long-term stability of reused materials.
Maintenance: There are important subjects that must urgently be promoted in relation to the proper maintenance services for railway facilities, such as concrete structures, tracks, rolling stock and trolley wires. Basically, the deterioration of structural members and elements shall be investigated. In this field, the contribution of RTRI is greatly expected in regard to basic experiments and analyzing and measuring methods. Based on the results of these researches, RTRI must propose new materials and technologies to extend the life of facilities.
Safety and Reliability: RTRI is also required to investigate the derailment and natural phenomena and propose the methods for system evaluation and risk management. The mechanism to cause human errors and the evaluation of the effect of human factors on safety and reliability must also be studied. Regarding natural phenomena, RTRI must investigate the seismic force and the effect of rainfall on the safety and reliability of facilities. Another role of RTRI is to investigate causes of trouble to acquire basic data to improve the safety and reliability of the railway system.
Information Technology: The information technology is changing the existing systems in the society. In the age of intensifying information technology, RTRI is required to construct a concept of railway transport to play a part of transport system, in which problems related to human characteristics will be involved in wide ranges. RTRI will be able to play an important role in this field as well, as it has researchers in human science. As information is increasingly introduced into the railway system, the effect of the system failure is predicted to become more serious. This requires promotion of research and development from the viewpoint of human behaviors of both users and railway employees in abnormalities.
The researches to cut costs and improve customer services are also what RTRI is expected to play an important role. A mission common to the above-mentioned subjects to be challenged by RTRI is the assessment of phenomena and actual situations. It is the most important measures for the development of railways to launch basic researches, investigate the essential qualities and characteristics of human beings, accumulate data and integrate research results. This description expresses almost all the reasons why RTRI does exist. Not only the application of information technology but also the stance for such research and development will yield achievement that leads to system changes.
As an independent research organization, RTRI must prepare standards of related technologies.
To efficiently promote research and development on the railway system as a whole, RTRI must collect and analyze not only its own research results but also the information on railways in Japan and other countries, and transmit such information to all over the world. This is also a mission that should be carried out by RTRI.