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About the Center for Railway Research and Education

The Center for Railway Research and Education has been established at MSU to support sustainable transportation options within the supply chain and strengthen modal choice and integration for passenger and freight shippers. It is supported by an endowment fund established by Edward A. Burkhardt, a prominent rail industry owner and executive.

We achieve our goals through four primary activities:

  1. Education through university-level programs
  2. Applied Research in the railway field
  3. Consultancy services where industrial partners retain intellectual property
  4. Knowledge Leadership activities to disseminate knowledge, raise awareness of rail transportation, and support growth.

Railway Research & Education brochure cover


We offer several educational options to support your career development to create additional value for your employer and the railway industry as a whole. Our portfolio ranges from half-day subject matter workshops to customized courses for specific clients to the Railway Management Certificate Program, an open enrollment program that consists of four one week-long modules spread over four months. Please select the Education tab for more detailed information.

Research and Consultancy

The principle of guided transportation is well established, therefore, our research is applied to real problems faced by railways, operators, suppliers, regulators, and customers. We create knowledge through research, leading to development of innovative solutions to enable the advancement of railway transportation. We encourage industry participation in our research so that real problems are addressed and industry impacts are accelerated. Please select the Research tab for more detailed information.

Knowledge Leadership

We present at academic and industrial conference to share our knowledge with participants. Collaborative communication enhances understanding and can inspire new thinking and innovation, ultimately benefiting the whole industry. An essential outcome of our activity is to share knowledge we create through engagement with existing and potential future partners and clients.

What Makes Us Different?

Focus Areas of Railway Research and Education

MSU is ranked No. 1 in Supply Chain Management. We work closely with the world-renown Department of Supply Chain Management at Michigan State University uniquely positions us to concentrate on the railway from a business and management perspective. This expertise enables freight railways to become fully integrated contributors to the supply chain success of their shippers and customers. It enables passenger railways to efficiently operate to support the economy and social balance of their communities.
We take a holistic view of the railway as a transportation system with focus on breath and complexity of the various sub-systems to meet the essential transportation function for shippers and passengers. The key aspects that make us different are:

The Railway as a System

Ranging from the wide Dispersion of assets and organizational functions; over the Variability of the asset condition and changing requirements of customers, regulators, and other stakeholders; via the Diversity of asset types and service lifetime; to the Interdependence between components to provide the transportation service, the railway as a system is complex.

Often all of these aspects fall within the responsibility, authority, and control of a single organization. It is critical for railway professionals to know and understand the capabilities and impacts of the various sub-systems and the interfaces between these to manage a successful railway.

Shippers, customers, regulators, and consultants also need to understand the complexity and interactions in order to integrate their expertise for efficient and effective engagement with railway firms and their people.

Role of the Railway in the Supply Chain

Railways provide a means for the spatial integration of the supply chain and, in certain circumstance, also provide temporal integration. The strength of railways is the transportation of large quantities, either heavy goods or large volume of cargo or both, due to its physical system characteristics.

There is no other mode of land transportation with lower land use and energy requirements than rail, making it one of the most environmentally sustainable transportation modes. However, the system nature results in lower flexibility compared to other modes. Understanding what rail can contribute to your supply chain objectives to create competitive advantage is an essential part of our activities.

Management of Railways

The primary function of the railway is the transportation of goods, passengers or both from one location to another to enable economic activity.

To achieve this, several physical, organizational, and virtual systems have to be in place; for example, the tracks, traction and rolling stock, train control, and business and customer service departments. Railways are asset rich organizations owning vehicles, extensive infrastructure, and handling facilities (depots, stations, warehouses, and terminals).

It is essential for managers in the railway industry to know about interactions between the different sub-systems, the underlying essential physics and engineering of the asset-based railway to take informed decisions. We focus on the whole system performance and the trade-offs that decision makers have to take to provide the desired service levels and meet stakeholder requirements while ensuring business sustainability.

Marketing, financial and management accounting, risk and safety, ergonomics, knowledge of engineering, and supply chain integration are critical for railway managers. Our focus is on the interaction and integration of these functions, covering the breath of the organization, rather than a single very deep understanding of a function or discipline.

Wide MSU Knowledge Integration

The large MSU community encompasses 17 degree-granting colleges covering a wide variety of disciplines. Many of their research activities and educational programs are highly relevant to railways, such as Engineering & Computer Science, Urban Planning, Criminal Justice (security and risk management), and Packaging to name a few.

We are exploring opportunities to collaborate and work with these subject experts for the benefit of the rail industry.

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