20 Jan 2014
REPOINT shortlisted for Enterprise Award
With rail passengers at their highest level since re-privatisation, cross-industry initiatives such as the 24/7 Railway and increasing overnight freight, the UK’s rail network is under pressure to provide increased capacity and reliability at reduced cost.
Experts from Loughborough’s Control Systems Research Group have invented a novel railway track switch which will significantly increase capacity at the same time as eliminating the type of failures which result in delays and cancellations.
Supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), and working together with railway simulation specialists from Tracsis PLC, the team embarked on a two-year project to re-engineer railway track switches. The fault-tolerant concept uses off-the-shelf components, and for the first time allows for heavy maintenance whilst trains are still running. The predicted benefits equate to millions of pounds savings in costs and capacity when applied across the whole UK network.
Currently, there are three patents pending on the technology, which is being prototyped in Loughborough laboratories. Industry leaders were so impressed with the concept – which was initially demonstrated in Lego – that the Enabling Innovation Team awarded funding to develop the technology and begin commercialisation.
There are around 35,000 track switches on the UK mainline network alone and the export market is likely to be many times that of the UK, with many countries experiencing capacity pressures.
- Original project demonstrates major capacity increase without major infrastructure disruption – March 2013
- 3 Patents filed as direct outputs of IP generated in the original project
- Route to market is being established with manufacturers and infrastructure owners
- Technology has received global interest from the rail industry
- Concept demonstrator in construction