Rail freight

13.01.20

£9.4m in rail technology contracts announced

Innovate UK has announced £9.4m worth of technology contracts from the Department of Transport, for organisations to apply for, aiming to improve rail services to passengers and operators.

As the number of rail users in the UK continues to grow, as do the challenges faced by the rail industry. 1.7 billion passengers and 110 million tonnes of freight rely on the rail network every year.

Rapid growth, changing customer expectations and ageing infrastructure add pressure to the industry which has seen a 28% increase of trains since 1997 and is expected to increase by 58% over the next ten years.

The funding, which come sunder the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), will finance a competition looking to improve current engineering and technologies to meet expectations of customers and enhance services to customers and future business.

The competition opens today (Jan 13) and closes at midday on March 11th, it will be open to organisations of any size and will award contracts of between £100,000 and £400,000.

Successful projects will aim to prove how technologies such as automation or innovative uses of data could be used on the railways.

The four areas of focus are:

Environmental sustainability; low-carbon freight, low-emission self-powered vehicles, energy generation and storage, air quality improvement, noise reduction and recyclable materials.

Customer experience; improved access and accessibility, optimised journey times, improved information systems, on-board and station connectivity, passenger comfort and analysis of customer feedback.

Railway operations; improved dwell time at stations, optimised freight planning, better recovery form disruption, better information from frontline staff, real-time decision-making assistance, use of robotics to improve safety and security.

Optimised and cost-effective maintenance; automation and robotics, automated cleaning, on-site maintenance of rolling stock, improved reporting of failures.

Responding to the announcement, David Clarke, technical director of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said:

“It’s great news that £9.4 million is available for new projects that would make our railways even more green, reduce costs, improve customer experience and increase accessibility.

“As we look to the future, there are a number of opportunities where the UK rail industry could develop world leading capabilities - such as in the areas of materials, data, automation and energy – which could not only improve our own rail system, but also could help the UK export even more.

“I’d urge all companies, whether you have experience in the rail industry or not, to get involved in the ‘first of a kind’ competition and help develop innovations to improve our railways.”

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