SOUTHAMPTON is set to be at the centre of developing Britain's infrastructure with the opening of a new facility.

The University of Southampton has officially opened its National Infrastructure Laboratory (NIL), which will provide researchers and students with state of the art equipment to aid their projects.

At the heart of the facility is the Large Structures Testing Laboratory, with a four-metre-deep reinforced concrete floor.

This will be where the strength of heavy-duty components such as railway tracks, bridge beams and wind turbine blades will be tested to their limits under loads of up to 50 tonnes, increasing in future to 250 tonnes.

The NIL also includes a geotechnical centrifuge, which will allow researchers to simulate the behaviour of an infrastructure component in service conditions.

William Powrie, professor of geotechnical engineering at the university said: "Infrastructure and urban systems underpin modern life.

"Our new facilities, which will be open to researchers from around the world, will support research to ensure that our infrastructure is affordable, adaptable, resilient and transformational.

"Our research in rail infrastructure has underpinned innovation and design improvements for several years.

"This new investment by Network Rail will accelerate customer focused improvements in performance, cost-efficient design and carbon neutral construction.

He added: "Decarbonisation of the infrastructure and the way we use it, to help avert the climate catastrophe, will be a major goal."

As well as taking on new research projects, existing programmes led by the University of Southampton will continue in the laboratory.

These include 'Track to the Future', which aims to develop a railway track that will cost less and last longer.

Chief executive of National Rail, Andrew Haines, said: "The laboratory will increase our ability to keep trains running in the face of extreme weather, reduce infrastructure failures and downtime for repairs, and reduce the cost to the taxpayer of maintenance.

"It will make it easier to test new ideas, realistically test the demands of heavy rail use, and speed up the delivery of essential improvements.

"I’m looking forward to seeing the developments that come out of this and other partnerships, as we work together to give passengers the service they expect and deserve."