Rail Industry Focus


Radical Train

Source: Rail Technology Magazine March/April 2013

Adam Hewitt reports on a major new competition being run by the Enabling Innovation Team to address the rail industry’s ‘innovation gap’, and hears from Richard Jones of engineering consultancy Frazer-Nash.

The rail industry is often known for being conservative and risk-averse, and embracing only incremental change.

But sometimes long-term, fundamental shifts are required to meet future challenges. The Rail Technical Strategy is all about this longterm vision, and the Enabling Innovation Team (EIT) has been set up to meet its challenges and address the ‘innovation gap’, as part of the Future Railways programme.

Part of this is the Radical Train project, aimed fundamentally at rolling stock systems and sub-systems. RTM spoke to Richard Jones of Frazer-Nash, the engineering consultancy managing the project on behalf of the EIT, which itself has backing from across the industry at the highest levels, including from the Rail Delivery Group, Technical Strategy Leadership Group, Planning Oversight Group, RSSB and the DfT.

Jones said: “Radical Train is aimed at producing technology demonstrators – real things that people can see, feel and touch which will be inspirational and show the way ahead for the industry.

“You know how engineers are when you show them something they can get excited about, and that’s the idea – to inspire, and show that the industry really can use technology to make progress.

“But we’re not closed to any idea. The artefacts that are produced might be physical, material artefacts, or they could potentially be models for example, but it will be something visible that really lets people see how the industry can step forward.”

The competition is specifically not limited to companies already working in the rail sector.

Jones said: “We’re managing the project on behalf of the EIT and so the guidance as to what they’re looking for comes not just directly from them but also from a cross-industry working group they’re working with. So yes we’re open to ideas from multiple industries.

“Rail does some things very well, but then aerospace, for example, also does some things very well, such as lightweight materials.

“It’s the same with other businesses and industries; automotive is making fantastic strides in reducing CO2 emissions, because it’s been driven very hard by changes in EU emissions legislation.

“Rail can learn things from other industries here.”

We asked Jones whether the competition was about blue sky, truly radical thinking – or whether it was about finding answers to specific, current challenges in the industry.

He said: “Across the whole portfolio of what EIT is doing, they’re open to both. They have an open door policy, so anybody with a great blue sky idea at any point can talk to them. But that’s outside the scope of this particular project. Within this project we’re open to ideas that meet the challenge of the RTS – particularly the 4 Cs challenge: customers, cost, CO2 and capacity.

“But that’s not in any way a restriction; that’s just a framework to start to trigger ideas. We’re absolutely open to ideas that fall outside that framework as well.”

The competition opened in mid-March, and an open event has been held to ensure all interested parties get the information they need to submit good ideas, and to ensure the assessment criteria is well-understood.

A consortium building event was held on 12 April at the National Space Centre in Leicester.

The deadline for submissions is coming up fast – Friday, May 3. Details on how to apply are at the end of this article. After that, Jones said, the aim will be to whittle the entries down to between three and seven, roughly, to go forward with by May 24.

Jones said: “There’s no hanging about! This has a real dynamic about it, and the EIT is really putting the pressure on to keep this moving.”

Funding for the whole Radical Train portfolio is expected to be around £4m, split between the bidders and the EIT. The bidders also get to keep all of the intellectual property rights and will share some of the associated benefi ts from developing the innovation with the EIT.

The judging will be split between Frazer-Nash’s technology specialists, the EIT itself, and the industry steering group. Jones said: “That means there’s a technology view, there’s an EIT view to really stimulate progress, and there’s the ‘feet on the ground’ view from the steering group.”

Asked about innovation more generally in the industry, Jones told us: “My personal opinion, as an engineer working in the industry, is that there is a lot of pent-up ambition out there to really push things forward.

“When you sit in a room with engineers, they want to make things better and push things forward and they want to use better technology – this is key to making best use of their skills. Radical Train provides a great opportunity for that to happen, without the normal fi nancial constraints.

“The important thing is that the competition creates a discussion and a movement in the industry.

“Radical Train is, I sense, quite different in that it’s really out to produce something people can interact with.

“Let’s assume it’s physical artefacts – there’s probably enough money in there to make a mock-up of a carriage, for example, maybe using new materials or whatever it might be. Radical Train is seeking to produce something inspirational, that lets people see what is possible.”

Assessment criteria

1. Market / customer need
2. Overall benefi t i.e. the added value the idea brings to the railway as a business, measured by the potential to increase revenue and ability to support delivery of improvement of the ‘4 Cs’. (Carbon, Cost, Customer Satisfaction, Capacity)

3. Capability and resource of the organisation
4. Innovation challenges (e.g. acceptance / patents / IPR issues)

5. Cost to demonstrate (relative to funding available)

Additional 2nd order criteria (for less formal consideration)
6. Export potential
7. Contribution to raise innovation profi le in UK
8. Technology maturity

Criteria will be scored by the assessment panel according to predefi ned ratings. A plot of ‘reward’ against ‘challenges’ showing cost will be used to enable a portfolio based decision of ideas to take forward. (Source: EIT) RTM APR-MAY13 v4.indd 40 16/04/2013 17:35

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

View all News

rail industry focus

View all News

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the TOC, gives RTM an update on the innovative scheme. Recognising that young people are more likely to take a risk trespassing on railway tracks, C... more > more last word articles >


Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio ... more >

'the sleepers' daily blog

On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

29/06/2020On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

Following an independent audit, Sulzer’s Nottingham Service Centre has been accepted as part of the rail industry supplier approval scheme (RISAS). The accreditation reinforces the high-quality standards that are maintained by Sulzer’s network of independent repair facilities across the UK and further afield in its global network. ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >
Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

02/07/2019Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

Smart electrification is the way to boost clean energy resources, argues Leo Murray, director at 10:10 Climate Action. Contractors are clear... more >
Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

02/07/2019Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

The TCR Midlands conference is only days away and tickets are going fast for the sector event of the year at the Vox Conference Centre in Birming... more >