Revolutionary switch design could significantly reduce rail service disruption caused by points failures
Loughborough University’s Control Systems Group has today announced that a consortium led by Ricardo Rail Ltd will develop the first installation of a radical new track switch product.
Repoint is a patented ultra-high availability/maintainability track switch that could help support increased levels of day-to-day rail traffic across the network.
The design introduces the concept of using several actuators to operate the same points, meaning that in the event of a single failure the remaining actuators continue to function safely. With this additional redundancy built into each machine, rail traffic can still pass and remedial maintenance can be scheduled without causing immediate disruption to services.
Repoint also uses a unique ‘lift, hop and drop’ mechanism, a method that eliminates the friction experienced by the slide chairs used in traditional point machines. It is also much faster to operate: Repoint can move a switch in under half a second, compared to four seconds for conventional designs – an improvement that can help support increased network capacity.
The first full-scale Repoint will be integrated with London Underground infrastructure in early 2018.
Innovative response to set challenge of increasing network capacity
The development of Repoint originates from a request by the industry’s independent body RSSB, to explore ways to increase network capacity. Following discussions with industry stakeholders, the limitations of switch machines, and the extent of disruption caused by a single failure, was seen by the University as an area that could benefit from a fresh approach. The UK has over 20,000 switch and crossing units and, despite representing only 5% of network mileage, they account for over 15% of the track maintenance budget.
Ricardo Rail have assembled a consortium including Progress Rail, DEG Signal and MPEC Technology and will now assist with the next stage of design, build and trial of a Repoint switch.
The contract is the result of an invitation to provide industrial development assistance publicised for official tender (OJEU) in June 2016.
Sam Bemment, of Loughborough’s Control Systems Group and Repoint’s technical lead, states:
‘This is an incredibly exciting time for us. Until now, the technology has been developed solely in our laboratory with the long-term support of RSSB. Our ambition now is to have a prototype deployed in the ballast. By partnering with the right industrial expertise we can complete this step to a much higher standard. Signing this agreement with such a well-known and highly regarded organisation is a significant milestone on the road to a successful network deployment, moving us closer to the step-change in performance that the industry tasked us with in 2010.’
Ricardo Rail will also assist in Repoint’s development beyond the prototype phase. Shakeel Meharban, Senior Commercial Manager at Ricardo Rail, commented:
‘This is an important first step in helping to bring this unique technology to the global market. Ricardo prides itself in its ‘one stop shop’ capability from expert advice through to niche production, and so we felt we were the perfect partner to support Loughborough University on such an innovative project. We are extremely proud to have this opportunity and look forward to a long and successful relationship with the team.
Neil Webster, RSSB Innovation Programme Director, stated: ‘Our continued support for Repoint reinforces our belief in the technology and its potential to deliver real, tangible benefits to the future of the rail industry.’
Notes for editors
Press release reference number: PR 16/143
Repoint was developed in Loughborough University’s Control Systems Group with the support of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Technology transfer activity was funded by HEFCE’s Higher Education Innovation Fund. For more information about Repoint, including future worldwide technology licensing opportunities, visit www.repointswitch.com
About Loughborough University
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Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.
It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, putting it among the best universities in the world, and was named the best in the country for its student experience in the 2016 THE Student Experience Survey. Loughborough was ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2017 and 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2017 and was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017, and University of the Year in the What Uni Student Choice Awards 2015.
Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.
In September 2015 the University opened an additional academic campus in London’s new innovation quarter. Loughborough University London, based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities.
Through research, analysis, and insight RSSB supports its members and stakeholders to deliver a safer, more efficient and sustainable rail system. RSSB’s vision is to be a centre of excellence, valued by its members and stakeholders as an essential contributor to their success. RSSB’s independent evidence based approach is built on strong technical capability, and the enabling of collaborative industry engagement for the benefit of the whole rail system. For more information, visit www.rssb.co.uk
Ricardo plc is a global, world-class, multi-industry consultancy for engineering, technology, project innovation and strategy. Our people are committed to providing outstanding value through quality engineering solutions focused on high efficiency, low emission, class-leading product innovation and robust strategic implementation. With a century of delivering excellence and value through technology, our client list includes the world's major transportation original equipment manufacturers, supply chain organizations, energy companies, financial institutions and governments. Guided by our corporate values of respect, integrity, creativity & innovation and passion, we enable our customers to achieve sustainable growth and commercial success. Ricardo is listed in the FTSE4Good Index, which identifies global companies that demonstrate strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices. For more information, visit www.ricardo.com