345 Rolling Stock, via Northern

NASA tech innovating Northern’s rolling stock

New details have been released regarding Northern’s implementation of light detection and radar (LIDAR) scanning technology across its 345 rolling stock fleet. This tech comes with the hopes of creating safer and more efficient rail travel for passengers.

The application of LIDAR technology sees horizon-scanning cameras that can detect infrastructure defects as well as environmental threats and general maintenance issues. These cameras are mounted onto the trains and use the same LIDAR process as meteorologists to measure clouds and pollutions. The same technology was adopted by NASA to map the surfacing of the moon.

Passenger loads will be monitored through thermal imaging systems, where this information can provide accurate information, in real time, to service partners in the events of emergencies.

 Safety innovation has also been prioritised for the fleet update, as Northern has aligned its on-board CCTV systems with the British Transport Police. This direct feed enables officers to tune-in to live, high-definition footage on-board its trains.

Scenarios Northern has used to outline the benefits of the new technology include:

  • Trains being able to detect ‘bumps on the line’ as they pass over them and automatically send GPS co-ordinates to maintenance teams responsible for repairs
  • External mounted cameras scanning the roof of tunnels for loose bricks so they can be flagged with infrastructure safety teams before they become a danger
  • Sensors able to spot energy saving opportunities, such as station lighting being left on during daytime, as trains travel through platforms
  • Security incidents and threats to public safety being monitored in real time by British Transport Police officers.

Roll-out of the new technology will begin later this month, with more to follow throughout the course of 2022.

Nick Donovan, managing director of Northern, said:

“This is the beginning of what we’re calling ‘Intelligent Trains.’ With these modifications, our fleet won’t just travel the network, they will actively monitor and report back on issues that could have an impact on our operation.

“The result will be greater efficiencies in terms of resource allocation, faster responses in terms of maintenance programmes and an overall smarter – and safer - way of working.

“We are sharing details of this new software with other train operators so that passengers the length and breadth of the country can benefit from the approach we have pioneered in the North of England.”

Northern’s investment into its fleet shows that the second largest train operator in the country continues to lead industry standards for innovation and passenger experiences throughout their 2000 daily services across the North of England.

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