The IRR is an internationally recognised centre of excellence in railway research in the field of the interaction between railway vehicles and track. This has resulted in improved understanding of the wheel rail contact and led to the development of a number of tools and techniques which are being used to predict deterioration of railway wheels and rails. This knowledge allows railway engineers to control and optimise maintenance intervals on wheel and track in order to optimise the life-cycle cost of their assets.

The benefits to the railway industry are reduced track maintenance costs, increased safety levels and resistance to derailment and the putting in place of methods that allow modal shift from road to rail and improved charging methods to promote fairer reallocation of costs between vehicle operators and infrastructure managers.

Work on the interaction between vehicles and novel track systems has resulted in a better understanding of the design alternatives to conventional ballasted track, increasing the scientific knowledge base supporting the choice of track systems for future high speed and suburban railways. Shortcomings and failure of existing track systems and fixing mechanisms have also been demonstrated to help infrastructure owner decide on retrofitting actions or future commissioning design specifications.

The IRR has developed extensive expertise in the field of vehicle dynamics, the wheel-rail interface, switches and crossings and asset management within the light rail and metro sectors. It has supported the HMRI and the Office of Rail Regulation in developing standardised wheel-rail profiles and industry guidelines to enhance the safety of UK systems. It has also supported the development of new light-rail and metro systems within the UK and overseas by providing design assurance for all aspects of the wheel-rail interface. The IRR runs industry short courses for UK operators, to widen the understanding of the fundamentals of derailment risk and asset life optimisation.