Rail tunnel

New AI prototype to revolutionise tunnel infrastructure installation

A new AI solution could make the installation of tunnel infrastructure safer, faster, cheaper, and greener.

The innovation, known as the Automated Tunnel Robotic Installation System (ATRIS), comes from a consortium of industry leaders in mechanical and civil engineering, as well as robotic automation.

The consortium includes Tunnel Engineering Services (TES), i3D robotics (i3D), Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), Costain, and VVB Engineering.

Installing mechanical and civil services can be dangerous, time-consuming and labour-intensive – ATRIS, however, can autonomously select brackets, locate where they need to be mounted along a tunnel wall and install them.

This can improve on-site safety for the workforce when it comes to working at height in confined spaces, hand-arm vibrations experienced during installation etc.

ATRIS is still a prototype but once fully developed, the innovators expect it to:

  • Increase productivity by 40% due to faster installation
  • Reduce installation costs for new mechanical and electrical systems by 30%
  • Cut construction plant movements by 40% to decrease embodied carbon

“Teaching the robots to learn seemingly simple tasks – such as how to avoid cross-threading the screws that go into the sockets – has been hugely fulfilling, thanks to the consortium’s collaborative spirit,” said Lee Bateson, mechanical and engineering manager at Costain.

Lee, who is also robotics lead, added: “Whether it’s carbon reduction, increasing productivity or improving workforce health and safety, this is transformative technology that will have enormous benefits for the customers that we build tunnels for.”

The 22-month project, funded in part by Innovate UK’s Smart grant, was led by TES which developed the initial concept in collaboration with the consortium.

MTC headed up the design and manufacturing of the robot’s end effectors, i3D developed visualisation software for navigation, while Costain and VVB offered industry knowledge and expertise in tunnelling and fit-out requirements.

Image credit: iStock


RTM April/May 24


Immerse yourself with the latest thought leadership on intelligent wayfinding for a more inclusive railway, a revolutionary approach to investment in the south, and strategic investments unlocking the North’s potential.

More articles...

View all
TransCityRail Banner


Mids \ 29 02 24
South \ 11 07 24
North \ 07 11 24

TransCityRail is a series of regional, interactive and insightful events across the country bringing together leaders, collaborators, problem solvers and innovators in a creative and invigorating way.

This series of events supports and informs the whole of the rail industry and connects suppliers with buyers, specifiers, leaders and decision-makers looking to procure a wide variety of innovative products and services for their region.


TransCityRail SOUTH

The South of England accounts for a significant portion of the UK’s rail investment strategy and is home to 7 sub-national transport bodies that have all placed rail infrastructure at the centre of their strategic investment plans.

Every year industry leaders from Network Rail, HS2, Train Operators, major contractors and transport bodies converge at the TransCityRail SOUTH conference, exhibition and networking dinner for a day of collaboration, conversation and engagement.

At this year's event, we're discussing...