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A head of steam for Accelerating Innovation in Rail - competition roundup

Last month, we reviewed progress of the winning projects for the Enabling the Digital Railway competition, that started in early 2014.

That competition, announced in 2013, was the second competition - under the Accelerating Innovation in Rail livery - supported byTechnology Strategy Board (now InnovateUK) and RSSB, the rail industry body for research and development. 

The first Accelerating Innovation in Rail competition, announced its winning eighteen projects in April 2012, awarding funding of £5 million to accelerate business innovation and growth in the UK’s rail industry, supporting the development of technologies to address challenges and meet customer requirements in both UK and international rail markets.

The funding came from the Technology Strategy Board (now InnovateUK), the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), with 50% of the funding coming through RSSB, the rail industry body for research and development. 


Projects Underway January 2013, now completed

In February 2013 RSSB announced that all 18 projects were underway adding summaries of each proposal, which form the basis, together with updates published by participants, to the following summary of the publicly available outputs.


Third Accelerating Innovation in Rail competition

A third competition in the rail series is expected by the end of the financial year, to look at building the supply chain in the railway sector.


Accelerating Innovation in Rail Project summaries


Cable Carrying and Acoustically Damped Thermoplastic Sleepers (CAD_TPC)

The Cable Carrying and Acoustically Damped Thermoplastic Sleepers (CAD_TPC) project proposed a range of reinforced thermoplastic sleepers to address practical issues of cable management and noise, to be tested in field trials with London Underground and Moorland and City Railways.

Cables are required to cross rail lines as part of the signalling system and must be electrically isolating. However, existing methods of cable crossings can cause significant disruption when they fail, and are expensive to install. Rail systems can generate unwanted noise, especially in urban area, often due to the use of concrete or steel sleepers.

This £211,552 Funded Value project ran from September 2012 to February 2014.

The project was led by MERL Ltd - that from 1 April 2013 the MERL business transferred to a new entity Element Materials Technology Hitchin Limited, that specialises in materials testing, product qualification testing and failure analysis. Also participating were Oxford Plastic Systems Ltd, a moulding company focused on recycled plastic based in Enstone; and Testsure Technology Ltd based in Uttoxeter.


Introducing aerospace materials to rail

The £159,661 funded value project Introducing aerospace materials to rail aimed to develop a commercially viable, lightweight, rail carriage door using composite materials and manufacturing processes - as a first step towards introducing lightweight trains innovations from the aerospace industry.

The project was led by London Underground Ltd and also involved Atkins Ltd; University College Londo; Wabtec Rail Ltd a Doncaster based rail vehicle engineering company and NCC / High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centre.

On Thursday 18 September 2014 University College London were handed the Stephenson Award for Engineering Innovation for the best entry focusing on an industry challenge to improve railway business position through reduced costs and/or improved revenue.

UCL's Taku Fujiyama and Nicole Badstuber also received an award for their participation - in July this year, receiving the 2014 Railway Industry Innovation Award for Underground door design

Presented by Baroness Kramer, Minister for Railways at Department for Transport, on Friday 27 June 2014, Taku Fujiyama and Nicole Badstuber won a 2014 Railway Industry Innovation Award, in the Environment Category. UCL was in charge of a system-wide cost benefit analysis where expensive capital costs are offset by reduced maintenance costs (because of light weighting) found in various parts of the railway operation.

Francesco Cavallo, Systems Development and Innovation Manager at London Underground said, "An overall train mass reduction will benefit London Underground with energy consumption, heat management, track wear and maintenance costs. A lighter door would also facilitate manual handling during maintenance and would have a positive impact on door motor duties, subsequently saving procurement and maintenance costs."

UCL’s Taku said, "Our expertise in railway system analysis has helped this great achievement. We will see a mass-production version of our new door in the new rolling stock of our underground systems in the near future."

The project started in October 2012 and was completed in May 2014.

Atkins supported the design and engineering of the new lightweight ‘tube’ doors for London Underground. According to Atkins, the door will be manufactured by the UK National Composites Centre (NCC).

Atkins’ intention is to transfer this knowledge to the engineering of entire trains so the idea has the potential to be used on whole transport networks, including overland trains and buses.

The average seven-carriage train weighs over 200 tonnes and reducing weight reduces the amount of kinetic energy needed. Also, the lighter the door, the bigger it can be; enabling more people to get on and off trains and therefore reducing dwell time at stations. This would, in turn, enable more trains to be in service at once.


Synthetic Aperture Focusing Technique for the inspection of Railway Crossings (Frogs)

Led by Balfour Beatty Rail Ltd, the rail engineering, design and construction business, employing over 2,000 people throughout the UK; in collaboration with TWI Ltd the Cambridge based research and technology company and, Mitras Engineering Test Services Ltd, the Synthetic Aperture Focusing Technique for the inspection of Railway Crossings - or RailSAFT - was funded by £306,444 to develop an affordable and reliable Non-Destructive Testing (NDT), automated, ultrasonic, inspection technique for high manganese, wear-resistant steel rail crossover points (Frogs).

Frogs are commonly used on rail networks but are susceptible to cracking due to impact loads from rolling stock. Early detection of cracks at safety critical locations in rail is vital because they may ultimately lead to failure with potentially catastrophic consequences. Early detection of flaws can be monitored/ assessed and repaired before risk of failure. Modelling and simulation methods were to be used to develop algorithms for the precise control of ultrasonic beam generated by phased array probes. The project expected that Synthetic Aperture Focusing (SAFT) together with advanced signal processing would enhance Signal Noise Ratios thus improving defect detection in cast Frog rail sections.

On 27 July 2014, TWI reported that RailSAFT was successfully completed. The consortium reported the successful development and implementation of an ultrasonic technique capable of reliable inspection of cast high-manganese steel railway crossings. The developed system utilises a combination of low-frequency ultrasonic transducers and a post-processing image reconstruction technique known as Synthetic Aperture Focussing Technique (SAFT). The system, TWI stated, was shown to reliably detect and locate real sub-surface and surface breaking defects in critical regions of manganese steel crossings.

The RailSAFT consortium said it successfully developed an ultrasonic SAFT inspection system, capable of full-volume inspection from the top surface of manganese steel crossings. The team used low-frequency ultrasonic transducers in combination with SAFT image reconstruction in order to minimise coherent noise contributions emanating from material back-scatter. An encoded four axis scanner system and a conformable membrane water wedge configuration were used in order to allow reliable coupling to the complex geometry top surface of the crossings.

The signal response from side-drilled holes, ranging between 5mm and 25mm in diameter at 80mm depth in manganese steel clearly indicate the improvement in SNR achievable using ultrasonic SAFT inspection over conventional ultrasonic testing.

Inspection of side-drilled holes at 80mm depth in a high-manganese steel railway crossing sample using conventional ultrasonic testing (top) and SAFT (bottom)

Inspection of side-drilled holes at 80mm depth in a high-manganese steel railway crossing sample using conventional ultrasonic testing (top) and SAFT (bottom)


Remote Condition Monitoring using Vibration Analysis for train door control systems

Technical faults, it was suggested in the proposal, cause 19% of all transport delays in the rail network. Malfunctions of automatic train doors account for 20% of these technical faults, almost 4% of all delays. There is recent and increasing interest in the use of remote condition monitoring (RCM) of these doors. So far, currently implemented RCM systems monitor only operational electronic and time parameters and use unusual values as an indicator of likely developing faults. However, the root cause of unusual electronic conditions are usually developing mechanical wear faults of multiple causes which eventually cause excessive noise, overheating and electrical failure.

The aim of the £168,404 funded Remote Condition Monitoring using Vibration Analysis for train door control systems project was development of an embedded low cost system for the direct monitoring of the health of the door mechanisms through the vibrational spectra captured by an accelerometer, with abnormal accelerometer signatures being used to provide early automated warnings before door failure occurs.

Hitex (UK) Ltd, a Coventry based supplier of innovative and reliable tools for embedded engineers, led the project, also involving Cambridge design & development consultancy Product Technolgy Partners Ltd, and TWI Limited, in Cambridge.

The project website is at

The proposed system for remote condition monitoring using vibration analysis (VA-RCM) for train door control systems will automatically detect wear in door rollers, the linear shaft assembly, ball bearings and misalignments in the shaft and door panels in the very early stages, before breakdown of the door mechanisms occur. Early stage fault detection may also make it possible to carry out low cost repairs at the scheduled maintenance intervals, avoiding the costly replacement of major door components and improving the component lifetimes. The intelligence of the VA-RCM system arises from the signal processing applied to the analysis of the received accelerometer data.

The VA-RCM system is different to existing technologies by:

  • Providing a single on-line vibration condition monitoring module for total coverage of automatic door mechanisms.
  • Using a single accelerometer and single channel data acquisition system to provide total condition monitoring covering all critical door components (making the low cost possible).
  • Providing automatic early warnings (LED warning lights changing from green to amber) of which components are likely to develop faults to the extent that the components require replacement at the next scheduled maintenance interval.

A meeting of the project in December 2013 concluded:

  • Vibration measurements can be used to detect both bolt looseness and air pressure,
  • Good correlations between change in air pressure (and hence speed of door) and damage sensitive feature (RMS),
  • Large datasets is always required to increase sensitivity.
  • Successful algorithm(based on Euclidean Distance and features extraction) implementation to assess simulated defects.


Formation Stiffness Measurement

The Formation Stiffness Measurement project researched a system for direct measurement of the condition of the formation on which the p-way (permanent way) is constructed. This was to allow effective asset management and reduce overall cost of rail infrastructure ownership and maintenance.

The purpose of track is to transfer train loads to the formation using a discrete system of rails, sleepers and ballastbed which sits on the formation. Load transfer works on the principle of stress reduction, layer by layer through these components. Areas where the formation is either weak or changes rapidly present significant problems when maintaining a section of track due to poor track geometry. This project researched a vehicle mounted continuous formation stiffness measurement (FSM) solution.

This project, supported with £145,844 of funding, was led by Balfour Beatty Rail UK, and also involved Heriot-Watt University


High Speed Alternating Current Field Measurement (HS-ACFM)

Rolling contact fatigue is a persistent problem in rail networks and consequential gauge corner cracking (GCC) can result in catastrophic failure.

This type of cracking appears in an area on the corner of the rail head where contact pressure between wheel and rail causes considerable shear forces in a small area and can lead to sudden failure of the rail and derailing of the train. The High Speed Alternating Current Field Measurement (HS-ACFM) project researched and developed a system to incorporate Alternating Current Field Measurement (ACFM) onto a vehicle operating at line speed. High Speed ACFM (HS-ACFM) was intended to provide enhanced asset management for rail head condition. This will permit the optimisation of rail grinding and replacement programmes leading to reduced ownership costs with enhanced operational safety.

Balfour Beatty Rail Technologies Limited led the project, supported by Milton Keynes Inspection Services company TSC Inspection Systems Limited. TSC was established in 1984 as a spin-off from University College London by a team of Professors and Lecturers who were recognised leaders in the fields of NDT, robotics and fracture mechanics.

TSC developed ACFM with support from BP, BG, Conoco and Shell, to improve the reliability of underwater inspection, reduce the reliance on the operator and provide audit-able inspection records.

According to TSC, ACFM technology has become accepted as one of the most reliable methods of detecting surface-breaking cracks in steel structures and metallic components.


Enhanced Customer (and Crew) Voice and Broadband Provision on Passenger Trains

The Enhanced Customer (and Crew) Voice and Broadband Provision on Passenger Trains project was funded with £124,470 support for Broadband Access Strategies LLP and Nomad Digital Ltd

Broadband Access Strategies, a Buckfastleigh, Devon, based specialist in fleet connectivity and on-vehicle ICT.

Nomad Digital is headquartered in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and provides consultancy within the fields of IT and telecommunications.

According to the project proposal, mobile voice and broadband provision on trains is generally poor. The main problem is that mobile operators can’t provide 100% effective coverage across the railway network, plus there are issues of mobile network congestion in urban areas as data use from smartphones swamping the networks.

Innovation both on the train and in the provision and management of the train-to-trackside link could deliver a modern, reliable and consistent voice and data service supporting passengers as well as both the train and track operators. The solution promised to deliver revenue to the infrastructure owner and train operator and can be replicated and exported to a number of other countries that are experiencing similar problems.

This month Nomad Digital announced it has been chosen by Alstom to provide Passenger Wi-Fi for 20 new trains, set to be the first regional trains to offer a Passenger Wi-Fi service in Germany and by Amtrack to provide an on-board Passenger Information solution for the US National Railroad Passenger Corporation, Amtrak, covering its national network of inter-city passenger trains.


An integrated wayside condition monitoring system for axle bearings

The proposal for the project An integrated wayside condition monitoring system for axle bearings asserts that the reliability and safety of axle bearings in passenger and freight rolling stock has always been of concern to the rail industry, and that hotbox detectors and air-coupled acoustic emission systems used for condition monitoring purposes fail to achieve the accuracy required to eliminate the risk of derailments caused by axle bearing faults as well as allow evolution to condition based maintenance procedures.

The COMORAIL project aimed to improve wayside monitoring capability by developing and implementing an on-line system, to combine vibration analysis and acoustic emission techniques, and increase the versatility and accuracy of the integrated online system.

The £392,697 funded project was led by Cambridge based Innovative Technology and Science Limited - Innovative Technology & Science Ltd. The other participants were InnoTecUK, a robotics and automation solution provider with expertise in non-destructive testing, automation, sensors and instrumentation. The other collaborators were Krestos Limited, a Nottingham based specialist in condition monitoring, energy harvesting and telecommunications products and services; VTG Rail UK, a Birmingham based private rail wagon hire company;University of Sheffield and The University of Birmingham.

The research effort within COMORAIL was coordinated by Dr Nico Avdelidis of InnotecUK  and Dr Mayorkinos Papaelias of the University of Birmingham. 

According to Krestos, COMORAIL project developed an innovative and cost-effective wayside condition monitoring system based on the integration of acoustic emission and vibration sensors capable of identifying axle bearing faults at a much earlier stage than previously possible. It claimed the consortium validated the developed system in the field with the help of VTG at the Long Marston rail track.

KRESTOS Limited led the development of the acoustic emission module of the COMORAIL system.


Digital Displacement Rail Transmission with Flywheel Energy Storage

The Digital Displacement Rail Transmission with Flywheel Energy Storage project claimed to combine, for the first time, Ricardo’s Kinergy flywheel and Artemis’ Digital Displacement hydraulic pump/motors in a regenerative energy recovery system for a commuter rail-car.

Bombardier Transportation participated to provide system-integration expertise to ensure that the resulting system is packaged into existing rolling stock.

Artemis Intelligent Power Ltd led the £492,890 supported project, alongside Ricardo UK Ltd; and Bombardier Transportation UK Ltd.

The start of the project was reported in The July 2014 edition of the The Rail Engineer in an article by David Shires, stating that at 100 mph, the energy in a 133 tonne three-car Class 170 DMU is 133 Megajoules (MJ).

“Braking the train from this speed to a stop in two minutes is equivalent to powering 1,100 one kilowatt electric fires over this period. It is therefore not surprising that a study of the stopping service between Edinburgh and Dunblane (ten stops over 42 miles) showed that braking losses accounted for 52% of the energy use. A further 16% was lost due to transmission slippage during initial acceleration, a significant factor for stopping services.”

The article reported that, in fuel-saving mode, Ricardo estimate a typical fuel saving of around 10-20% on services such as Edinburgh to Dunblane. This gives around £11,000 per vehicle per annum savings with a 4.5 year payback period for an estimated system costs of £50,000. Volume production of flywheels for rail and other application might lower this cost.

The project intended to develop a predictive tool to determine savings for a particular train service to assess the system’s payback for any train service which will be validated as part of the testing regime.

At the start of the project, Ricardo’s head of rail vehicle technology, Jim Buchanan said, “While we are already evaluating the Kinergy in a commercial bus application, this project will be the first to deploy this very promising, cost-effective and efficient mechanical energy storage technology in a rail application. Combined with the Artemis high efficiency hydraulic transmission technology and Bombardier’s established position as a leader in rail vehicle design and construction, I believe that this project has the potential to demonstrate a highly compelling fuel saving and performance enhancing solution, equally applicable to retro-fit installation or incorporation in new rolling stock.”

“We believe that the Artemis Digital Displacement® technology is ideally suited both to railway driveline applications requiring highly efficient fluid power, and to use with an advanced mechanical energy storage system such as Ricardo’s Kinergy”, added Artemis Intelligent Power managing director, Dr Win Rampen. “We are extremely pleased to be working on this exciting project with two world-class partners."


Cable Theft Prevention

BT, Telent and Rentokill Initial formed a consortium to address the theft of copper cable on the rail network, by turning track side cables effectively into tens of thousands of microphones.

The proposed solution detects potential criminal activity,

validated with Network Rail before initiating a security response. Unlike other solutions, the proposed solution would prevent damage through early detection of site preparation work which is the thieves’ modus operandi, thereby minimising the consequent delays and cancellations. It could also be expanded to monitor infrastructure safety (eg landslides, rail fractures); detection of problems with rolling stock (eg faulty bearings), and to accurately locate trains thereby enhancing safety (eg level crossings).

BT led the project (not listed in Gateway to Research), collaborating with telent Technology Services Ltd, a Warwick based technology services company providing network and communications services in telecommunications and transport, and Rentokil Initial Facilities Services (UK) Ltd.


Rail Adhesion Monitoring System

The Rail Adhesion Monitoring System project intended to develop a method for identifying low adhesion areas of the rail network, in real-time, and to present this to network operators in a way that facilitates more effective responses to the problems caused by low adhesion.

TRL Limited led the £114,175 funded project, that also involved Balfour Beatty Rail Technologies Limited, building on Balfour Beatty Rail Technologies’s existing product range by introducing technology and practices from TRL’s experience of road condition surveys and management of infrastructure assets. The availability of real-time adhesion data was expected to enable lower cost and more effective management deployment of measures to improve rail adhesion as well as providing information to assist train drivers maximise the performance within the limitation of the current conditions - which could lead to cost and safety benefits arising from reduced delay, risk of critical events, and wear to track and rolling stock.

The TRL report Investigation of novel systems for monitoring rail adhesion published in December 2013 concluded that the project demonstrated that an image analysis method using imaging of a reflected visible laser speckle pattern might be possible although, it has not demonstrated a reliable method of separating different contaminants and film thicknesses.


Lifetime extension of rail track via laser cladding technology

The lifetime of any rail track section is limited by surface wear and rolling contact fatigue (RCF), resulting from the successive interactions between train wheels and the rail head, causing cumulative damage to the rail head surface.

Cracks can ultimately lead to rail failure, currently mitigated by periodic grinding of the rail head which, although effective, also shortens the life of the rail.

The Lifetime extension of rail track via laser cladding technology project used laser cladding to selectively deposit higher performance materials on to the surface of standard grade rail steel, offering the possibility of tailoring the rail head surface to improve wear/RCF resistance. This technology may also be able to repair rail defects and to refurbish removed worn rails for re-introduction into service.

Laser Cladding Technology - the largest laser cladding provider in the UK - led this £176,096 funded project, that also involved Tata SteelUK- Rail Products; Sandvik Osprey, a Neath based Metal powder provider - and University of Sheffield.


ChoiceRail - Finding the best Rail Journeys

The ChoiceRail project proposed a multimodal journey planner, combining real-time road, rail and parking data to provide end-to end journey planning.

Transportation software company Trapeze Group led the £434,875 funded project that used a journey planning algorithm stated as capable of finding diverse routes balancing considerations such as distance, time, cost, reliability and congestion.

The design was informed by research into user behaviour for making travel decisions and user interface requirements.

Journey plans can be used both by web, mobile and in-car (SatNav) applications. It aimed to support Park and Ride and ‘Kiss and Ride’ options - i.e. dropping off people at stations. The goal of the project was to make it easier for travellers to find the best rail journeys, taking into account real-time conditions.

ChoiceRail project also involved Inrix Media, a London based aggregator of real time traffic and travel information; Cotares, a Cambridge based Consulting & Research company and University of the West Of England

Paul Everson demos Trapeze ChoiceRail






Paul Everson demos Trapeze ChoiceRail







According to University of the West Of England, a map-based demonstration website was developed to utilise the prototype ChoiceRail planner. This allowed users to enter an origin and destination (via text entry boxes or directly from the map) along with dates, times and modes of transport which include car and public transport (bus and rail at present). The user could compare resulting journey plans using a number of views.

The project was reported as complete (although no website is evident); the prototype is intended to serve as a test bed for the UK companies involved, who are keen to go on and develop internationally competitive products from it.


Digital Imaging for Condition Asset Management (DIFCAM)

The DIFCAM (Digital Imaging for Condition Asset Management) proposed to develop capability for the use of rapid optical techniques to monitor and assess (rail) asset condition digitally, in order to reduce or eliminate the need for rail track access and human visual inspections.

Starting with an initial demonstrator of the assessment of structural integrity on bridges and tunnels, the technology planned to enable the delivery of applications for UK and international railway markets.

Led by York based mapping and imagery company Omnicom Engineering Limited, the £415,259 funded DIFCAM project was a collaboration with National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and Atkins.

The Project was highlighted at the 2013 RIA Innovation Conference in April 2013, an event reported in 'The Rail Engineer' Issue 103 - May 2013.

As featured by NPL in September 2013, the The DIFCAM platform comprises three modules:

  • Acquisition module - operational interface, profiling, recording, indexing,stitching pre-processing, transmission and storage,
  • Processing module - profile change detection and visualisation processing algorithms, and
  • Inspection module - inspection software with visualisation
  • and schematic presentation functionality for end users, controls and navigation, as well as output into downstream maintenance workflows.

The main features of the DIFCAM system are:

  • Speed of measurement: measurements taken at 1m per second plus 30 mins alignment of the vehicle compared with 1-2 shifts for a long tunnel.
  • Super high resolution imagery: measurements are approximately 1mm per pixel.
  • Combined shape and appearance measurements: combined data on the same area.
  • Automated data generation: can be shared with and assessed by multiple colleagues, allowing for crosschecking.
  • Automated screening capability: digital image correlation used for imagery and surface profiling.
  • Automated defect report generation: various output formats available to suit present and future requirements.
  • Forward compatibility: the platform can scale to cope with higher resolution data and faster measurements as it becomes technically possible to approach line speed.

The main benefits wee claimed to be:

  • Rapid data capture: depending on the asset or structure, the acquisition system functions at speed to collect data as it passes the structure, unlike a site inspection.
  • Direct inspection-to-inspection comparison:
  • the system can highlight differences down to 1mm.
  • Full record of the structure:
  • the system creates a reusable time history of appearance and shape to support further inspection or other purposes.
  • Frees up the time of experienced inspectors:
  • reduced need for inspectors to attend on site, as assessment of defects can take place remotely.
  • Reduction in cost and improvement in workforce safety: Autonomous control of the system can be used for hazardous or difficult-to-access environments. Earlier detection of defects enables more proactive tunnel maintenance strategies.
  • • Richer, more detailed spatial data: 3D measurements of the structure can be produced e.g. area or length of a defect.
  • • Modular architecture: individual or combined elements of the platform can be adapted for numerous further application areas.


Energy efficient heating systems for snow melting and ice prevention of rail switch points

The £402,261 funded Energy efficient heating systems for snow melting and ice prevention of rail switch points project proposed an electric heating system to melt snow and prevent ice formation at rail switch points.

Using less energy than conventional switch point heaters it was stated as having four elements: a self-regulating semi-conductive polymeric heater, an advanced intelligent control system, a thermal insulation system and a dual power supply (mains or solar).

Concept testing and thermal heat transfer calculations indicated energy savings of 75% and a 30-50% reduction in product life cycle costs. In addition, the new heating system resists burnout so is safer than competing technology. It was scaled to offer Network Rail potential energy cost savings of £9.9 million per year and a carbon footprint reduction of 52,000 tonnes of CO2e per year. The technology could also be used in other rail heating applications such as heating of the third rail, overhead cables, bridges, tunnels, platforms and under-floor heating.

Heat Trace Ltd, a Cheshire based provider of heat tracing solutions led the project, that was a collaboration with University of Birmingham; Innoval Technology, a Banbury based consultancy and Orange Box Control Ltd of Sunderland.

Heat Trace stated in its Guide to Rail Network Heat Tracing Applications, produced in September 2012, that the principle behind the heating of the conductor rail is to allow the train to accelerate under its own traction up to about 30mph, in order to allow it to get away from the station, or perhaps from a signal location where the train may have been required to stop. To achieve this a section of around 200 metres of conductor rail is heated on the exit track of the station, or where the train needs to pull away from the signal. Once the speed is up to 30mph the collector shoe is able to act as its own “scraper” and take traction.

Heat Trace said it successfully installed a number of these system on the UK rail network.

Energy efficiency can be further enhanced by incorporating a thermally insulating barrier strip over the heater that directs more generated heat into the rail, rather than it being dissipated into the air. Coupled with Heat Trace’s PowerMatch+ controller, this is claimed to result in a significant reduction in operating costs, while extending the life of the heating system.

The heater and the thermally insulating strip are held in position on the rail using specially designed spring clips that can be easily removed and replaced for track maintenance purposes.

To allow the system to be fitted to various types and sizes of contact rail the thermally insulating strip can be modified to fit different rail profiles and positioning of the heater strip.


ECO Train Interior: High efficiency, low cost

The ECO Train Interior: High efficiency, low cost project was a £383,544 funded R&D project led by Bombardier Transportation UK Ltd in collaboration with Mitras Composites Ltd and Invertec Ltd of Fairford, Gloucestershire.

The project proposed to research technologies for fitting out a train interior in order to reduce passenger carriage weight, improve thermal performance and integrate highly efficient lighting and heating solutions. The benefit to be passenger trains with significantly improved energy consumption and an improved carbon footprint as well as an interior that will be designed to improve passenger comfort and experience.

Mitras Composites (UK) Ltd became MCG Composites Ltd in June 2013.

Mark Ellis, Bombardier’s head of engineering for rolling stock and services was quoted in The Engineer on 13 December 2013 as saying the train industry is responding to many of the same challenges as the automotive sector: by lightweighting, and thereby using smaller, lighter engines to achieve the same, or higher, speeds as older models.

“We switched from steel to aluminium some time ago, and we use polymers and composites extensively for interiors; we’d consider them for exterior panels as well,’ he said. ‘And the Flexx Eco bogie uses considerably smaller motors than the older models, as well as having the components in the same place rather than spread through the car.’


XiSPAN Bridge Strengthening and Life Extension

In the UK there are over 25,000 masonry arch bridge spans carrying railway traffic, all designed for lower vehicle loads than are currently being applied. This issue is common to many rail networks, increasing the ongoing maintenance burden.

The XiSPAN Bridge Strengthening and Life Extension project, a £114,183 funded project led by Balfour Beatty Rail Technologies Limited, proposed to extend the scope of a proven ballast strengthening technique (polyurethane/ballast composite) to encompass masonry arch bridges, allowing better distribution of the loads from trains and reducing the pressures exerted by earth fill on spandrel walls.

The project planned to trial the system and provide measurements and test results to verify the modelling of load distribution, so designers can apply the system in practice, and so reduce costs, railway access times to undertake repairs and in some cases increasing load capacity of the route.

The collaborating institutions for the project were Heriot-Watt University and Sheffield University.

Balfour Beatty Rail were recognised in the Heritage category of the sixth annual Network Rail Partnership Awards for the XiSPAN project, cited as “a fine example of how Balfour Beatty has helped to provide a technical solution that has not only saved an original Stephenson bridge, but can also be used on other arches.”

According to the Network Rail, “This system offers real heritage and financial benefits across the whole railway.”


A Wireless System for Rail Displacement and Temperature Monitoring

The £146,267 funded Wireless System for Rail Displacement and Temperature Monitoring project focused on the development of an intelligent battery operated sensor node for railway track and points displacement (movement) and temperature monitoring.

The proposal offered multipoint-to-point wireless connectivity to a data acquisition unit located trackside and integrated with the current Network Rail maintenance monitoring network.

Accurate signal analysis of dynamic displacement from accelerometers, it stated, requires an innovative approach to meet with the signal processing restrictions of a low power environment. This, combined with a mesh wireless topology to provide multipoint structural monitoring of railway points infrastructure, brings together a number of established technologies to provide rail operators a condition monitoring tool in line with the 'Intelligent Infrastructure' strategy.

The project was led by Berkhamsted based Sensonics ltd, that claims expertise in vibration, displacement and speed monitoring solutions; working with Stockport-based HIMA-SELA ltd, that offers engineered solutions for safety, control and automation applications in the oil & gas, petrochemical, rail, steel and power industries.

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