Staff Profile

Dr Roberto Palacin

Reader in Transport Futures



Director of Discipline for Mechanical Engineering and Marine Technology.

Senior academic leading the Railway Systems area at NewRail as part of Newcastle University's Future Mobility Research Group, I have a background in Mechanical Engineering, Design and Railway Systems Engineering. I have been involved in research projects on subjects such as strategic development of transport systems, energy efficiency of urban and mainline rail systems, urban mobility and sustainability, development of innovative railway concepts, energy optimisation of rail systems, intermodality of the European rail network and development of modular concepts for high-speed.

My research interests revolve around the two main aspects, application of a systems approach to decarbonisation of transport and human-systems interaction which includes mobility and mass-capacity in the context of MaaS (urban and long distance), improving railways energy efficiency, connectivity and the development of ergonomic and design-led transport environments.

I am currently Principal Investigator (PI)/CO-I  for

  • RIDE2RAIL, a Shift2Rail European Joint Undertaling ( funded project  aiming to develop solutions and tools that will facilitate the efficient combination of ride-sharing and scheduled transport services such as bus and rail. My role is related to impact assessment and systems implications;
  • HPOMS, an Innovate UK co-funded project developing a holistic pantograph and overhead line monitoring system as part of 5G enabled road and rail transport trials in the West Midlands. My role is related to the development of a continuous image processing solution as part of the University team as well as contributing to the overall innovation assessment.
  • H2-Network, network for Hydrogen-fuelled transportation funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of the Decarbonisation of transport programme. Under the hydrogen fuelled transportation theme, the Network aims to bring together the knowledge obtained through research projects funded by the RCUK Programme and other national and international cross-disciplinary research aimed at developing a "hydrogen" for transport economy.  It has a strong multi-disciplinary focus and aim to ensure engagement and knowledge transfer takes place across all modes of transport and hydrogen energy including technology, socio-economics, behavioural science and policy. My role involves membership of the Steering Board; 
  • CLEANFERRY, funded by Innovate UK as part of the 2021 Clean Maritime Demonstration competition. This feasibility study aims to define and develop a clear decarbonisation route map for the Shields Ferry crossing across the river Tyne. The project will identify existing energy flows using state-of-the-art monitoring systems as well as suitable technological and operational viable options to achieve no emissions at the point of use. I am the overall lead and principal investigator.

Recently completed research includes the following:

  • DECIDe, a project funded by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) aiming at exploring the development of digital environments for collaborative intelligent decarbonisation. This include investigating the potential of functional mockup interface (FMI) approaches to co-modelling as well as supporting a systems approach to decarbonisation. Other applications of this work include performance of transport systems.
  • OPEUS, a Shift2Rail JU funded project seeking the development of modelling and strategies for the assessment and optimisation of energy usage aspects of rail innovation. I was the overall coordinator and also involved in all areas of research including model development and energy outlook;
  • Z_LIM a UK funded project investigating predictable and optimised braking for rail systems applying the concept of a linear induction motor that instead of using an integrated primary and secondary unit, it separates them using the existing running rails as the secondary placing the primary component attached to the bogie in the fashion of a eddy current brake. This allows for the generation of forces that are independent of the level of adhesion between wheel and rail, effectively providing a zero wheel-slip effect. I was the overall project director. This research is now subject of a potential start-up company;
  • SETRIS, a H2020 project that aimed at delivering a cohesive and coordinated approach to research and innovation strategies for all transport modes in Europe, where my role was to lead the passenger mobility strategy;
  • International Coordination for implementation of innovative and efficient urban mobility solutions (Viajeo Plus), an EU FP7 project seeking the identification and sharing of best practice leading to implementing sustainable urban transport systems in Europe, China, Singapore and latin America;
  • Optimal strategy to innovate and reduce energy consumption in urban rail systems (OSIRIS), an FP7 co-funded project where i led the development of a unique set of key performance indicators for energy optimisation urban rail systems (see some of my recent publications on the topic). My contribution to OSIRIS was also related to the definition and development of operational requirements and needs for urban rail systems as well as the integration of technical results and economic assessment for Decision Support;
  •  Sustainable and intelligent management of energy for smarter railway systems in Europe: an integrated optimisation approach (MERLIN), this research aimed at developing an architecture for the development smart rail systems in a similar fashion to smart grids are related to power distribution grids. I led the development of an architecture and associated tool for strategic decision making (SDMT) as well as being involved in research on developing operational and strategic approaches to improve the energy efficiency of railways.;
  • integrated optimal capacity, safety and energy strategies at multiple nodes (SafeCap ). A UK funded project using formal methods for verification applied to the optimisation of rail energy networks. I was part of a multidisciplinary team at Newcastle University co-led with Prof Romanovsky (School of Computing Science) aiming to develop real-time network optimisation tools exploring the trade-off between capacity, safe and energy usage. 

Other relevant past projects include CleanER-D (Clean European Rail Diesel), EBSF (European Bus System of the Future), MODTRAIN (Innovative modular vehicle concepts for an integrated European railway system), HST Connectivity (study on High Speed rail connectivity in northwest Europe) and RAILTEST (Inventory of Railway Test Installations in Europe and Detection of Synergies between them).

Google scholar: Click here.

SCOPUS: Click here.


Esteem Indicators

Esteem indicators include:

  • Appointed expert investigator for the UK's Rail Accident Investigation Board (RAIB)
  • Appointed Chair of the European Commission's Impact Assessment Panel for the upcoming future institutionalised European Partnerships under Horizon Europe Program, focusing on Transforming Europe's Rail System (2019);
  • Appointed PGT external examiner at UCL;
  • Invited keynote speaker at the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) Rail Interest Group (RIG), London, 2018;
  • Invited member of Tyne & Wear's New Mobility Services (digitalisation) advisory panel
  • Invited speaker and panellist at the special session “Implementing MaaS pilots in Europe: State of the art and expected impacts”, ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) World Congress, Copenhagen, 2018
  • Invited Chair and panellist at special session “Modal Synergies for Future Mobility” at the European Commission's TRA 2018 bi-annual conference “A digital era for transport: Solutions for Society, Economy and the Environment”, Vienna, 2018;
  • Selected member of China’s High End Foreign Experts Programme, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2017);
  • Invited reviewer for the European Commission’s FP6, FP7 and H2020 research programmes (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020);
  • Invited member of the Energy Advisory Group for the €18m international research project Innovative Intelligent Rail (In2Rail);
  • Invited advisor to the European S2R Joint Undertaking  ( re-defining the vision and strategy for their €920m multi-annual action plan (MAAP);
  • Guest Editor with Prof Tony Roskilly and Prof Yan for a special issue on Clean Transport, Applied Energy Journal (Elsevier), volume157;
  • Member of the UITP's academic network representing Newcastle University (ongoing);
  • Member of the National Evaluation and Foresight Agency (ANEP), Spain(2006-to date);
  • Regular peer reviewer for indexed journals (2008-);
  • peer reviewer for the Transport Research Arena-TRA  (2012-2020)
  • Scientific committee member for the International Congress on Rail Technology, 12-14 April, 2010 (Spain);
  • Peer reviewer, organising committee member and session chair at the 13th European Conference on Composite Materials (ECCM13), Stockholm (Sweden) 02-05 June 2008
  • Expert Member, Working Group on Passenger Intermodality, LINK European Forum (2008)
  • Member of the evaluation panel for the CENIT Programme, part of the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) a Spanish public organisation under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (2006, 2008).
  • Expert Evaluator for the Vienna Technology and Science Fund on the Science for the Creative Industries programme (2006).
  • Panel member and speaker at the conference “Beyond Rail”, Brussels, 2006, on the future of high speed rail in Europe;
  • Session Chair and speaker at the SAMPLE 2006 Conference, Paris 2006 on the composite materials in transport
  • Organising Committee and Speaker at Rail Systems Engineering Conference, Derby (UK),’05 


Modules for the 2021-22 academic year:

  • Sustainable design, creativity and professionalism (ENG1002)
  • Mechanical Engineering Project (MEC3098);
  • Mechanical Engineering Project (MEC8099)
  • Human centred design and engineering (MEC8028);
  • Msc Project Mechanical and systems engineering (MEC8095)
  • Project Management Appreciation (SPG8027) MSc Renewable Energy, Enterprise and Management (REEM);

In previous years:

  • Design for Industry (MEC3018)
  • Enterprise Project (SPG8094) MSc Renewable Energy, Enterprise and Management (REEM)/Renewable Energy Flexible Trainning programme (REFLEX)
  • Rail Environment and Energy (MEC8039);
  • Mechanical Engineering Professional Skills I (MEC1012);
  • RailNewcastle Summer School, "Energy Use For Sustainable Rail" plus project supervision
  • MEng Mechanical Engineering Stage 4  "Enginering tomorrow's railway" module co-supervision and assessment (MEC4006);
  • MEng Mechanical Engineering Stage 4  team project supervision and assessment (MEC8099);
  • Annual guest lecture  to Supply Chain Management undergraduate students (MKT3011) and Supply Chain postgraduate students (NBS8501);

In addition, i am main supervisor/co-supervisor to a number of PGRs at the Newcastle and Singapore campuses on subjects such as connectivity, energy and capacity aspects of railway systems, subway climatology and others. 

I was until recently Degree Program Director (DPD) for Mechanical and Systems Engineering (2017-20)