Thursday, June 13, 2019

UK Rail Industry Gets a Boost as Innovative Projects Receive Government Investment

Schemes Include Drones, Hydrogen Power and Greener Freight Technology
Shipping News Feature
UK – The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced plans to innovate the UK's rail network with a £7.8 million investment to drive forward transformation of Britain's railways to become more efficient, greener, and cleaner. Drones capable of inspecting railway infrastructure, hydrogen train trials and a sound-bending wall to cut noise pollution are among 24 winning projects in the third round of the First of a Kind (FOAK) competition.

Run by Innovate UK and funded by the DfT to support research, development and innovation in the UK rail industry, the competition seeks innovative ideas that can be adapted to transform rail travel. Strengthening resilience of railway infrastructure and operations, enhancing rail freight services, and reducing environmental and noise impacts were the themes for this round. Each of the winning schemes will receive between £250,000 and £350,000. Rail Minister Andrew Jones said:

“The First of a Kind competition has consistently produced truly innovative projects developed for the benefit of passengers, helping to drive forward a greener, cleaner and more efficient rail network. This round has been the biggest yet and I am excited to see how our funding will bring these ambitious ideas to fruition. This government is also investing £48 billion to modernise our rail network over the next 5 years, ensuring people have the safe, frequent and punctual journeys they deserve.”

Among the successful projects is 4Silence’s plan to develop a noise-reducing wall that works by diffracting sound waves from passing trains upwards. This makes it as effective as a barrier 3 times its height. Another scheme being supported is Amey VTOL’s development of a drone system that could carry out track inspections from the skies. This would avoid the need for people to set foot on railway infrastructure.

The University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research is also receiving funds for its plans to undertake the first mainline testing of a hydrogen-fuelled train in the UK. Simon Edmonds, Deputy Executive Chair and Chief Business Officer, Innovate UK commented:

“The UK’s rail network delivers significant economic benefits to the nation, providing an environmentally-friendly transport system for the movement of both passengers and freight. Yet there is more we can do to boost the reliability of the network, to make it more attractive to freight users, and to make it even greener.

“The pioneering projects for which we have announced funding today can increase reliability, to keep services running, with real benefits to freight operators and the environment. The programme will also help innovative companies succeed, both here and in export markets.”

The first round of First of a Kind was launched in 2017 and saw 10 projects win a share of £3.5 million to develop ideas to improve passenger experience and demonstrate tomorrow’s trains. The second round focused on schemes aimed at cutting the carbon footprint on the UK’s railways and enhancing stations for passengers. This saw another 10 projects offered a share of £3.5 million.

This latest round includes the following proposals:

Participant Organisation Project Grant
AP Sensing UK SPECTRAIL - Low cost intelligent infrastructure through fibre acoustic transmission £349,800
Thales Ground Transportation Systems UK  ASSIGN: Advisory system for SIGNallers for improved User Worked Crossing Resilience £345,000
Smart Component Technologies Smart railway switches and crossings £315,390
Railview  INFRAMONIT test vehicle £331,651
AmeyVTOL Drone network £342,837
DGauge Altenative gauging methodology £284,818 
Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education Hydrogen train (Hydroflex) mainline testing £350,000
Meteor Power Retrofit EURO 6 diesel hybrid system for shunters & other freight applicaitons £348,120
G-volution Decarbonising freight locomotives £321,596
Hive Logic iPort Rail App £347,600
University of Hull  NR+. Integrated digitised rail infrastructure platform for planning £344,352
JR Dynamics Smart oil plug: Disruptive rail gearbox condition monitoring solution £350,000
Perpetuum  Wireless condition monitoring of freight locomotives £336,440
Incremental Solutions Dynamic monitoring of electrified networkd & trains to prevent failure £341,585
Artonezero (T/A JNCTION) An automated operations decision support tool for disruption management £289,800
CPC Systems VPVision: Development of remote monitoring for automatically controlled trains £333,701
Transreport TiPA: Transreport intelligent Passenger Assist for resilience during disruption £349,760
CoCatalyst Improved braking through controlled water addition £349,440
Emission Solutions Data-focused air and noise pollution monitoring solution for the rail industry £349,863
Eartex Railway works noise visualisation and management £252,921
Hack Partners Artificial intelligence assisted lineside inspection and maintance planning solution £252,341
Qualis Flow Intelligent Data & Environmental Analytics (IDEA) £261,420
4Silence Noise-reducing wall £265,373
Ultra Light Rail Partners Ultra light rail smart transport innovations - Project STEAM Ultra £349,990

Photo: Hydrogen powered trains are already running trials in Germany.