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Author Topic: Searching for the next Brunel  (Read 6166 times)
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« on: January 15, 2020, 05:45:18 am »

From New Civil Engineer

The Department for Transport (DfT» (Department for Transport - about)) has launched the First of a Kind 2020 competition, which includes a £9.4M fund for innovative ideas to develop the UK (United Kingdom)’s railway.

Innovation UK is working in tandem with the DfT on the project, which will reward rail technology companies hoping to “create a greener, more cost-effective and customer-friendly railway with greater capacity”. The winning projects will receive a share of the £9.4M fund.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “For two centuries the UK has been at the cutting edge of rail technology.

“To build the railway of tomorrow we have to support the inventors and innovators of today. This competition is designed to find the next Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and help them create the technology that defines our railway in the future.”

Future of Transport minister George Foreman visited Riding Sunbeams to launch the competition this week, which won funding to pilot its innovative solar panel rail project in 2019. Riding Sunbeams was one of 24 companies to receive funding of up to £350,000 from a previous version of the DfT competition.

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« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2020, 06:59:56 am »

Can't really imagine Brunel surviving today's administrative and managerial environment.
Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2020, 12:13:06 pm »

From New Civil Engineer

The Department for Transport (DfT» (Department for Transport - about)) has launched the First of a Kind 2020 competition, which includes a £9.4M fund for innovative ideas to develop the UK (United Kingdom)’s railway.
This competition is designed to find the next Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and help them create the technology that defines our railway in the future.”

Well, whoever they find, as long as they don't end up with a 2030s Atmospheric Railway in Devon, a bridge across a gorge that goes from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular, and a gauge that is wider than everybody else is using, we might be all right...
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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2020, 12:46:09 pm »

This "first of a kind " competition has been going for four years now, but has always been confusing - it's badged as both InnovateUK and SBRI, and has varying names for different rounds - as well as overlapping calls for different subjects. This one lists as topics:

  • environmental sustainability
  • customer experience
  • optimised railway operations
  • optimised and cost-effective maintenance

There are two rail-related calls still open from December (at least):

  • Innovation in automated survey processing for railway structure gauging, phase 1
    Businesses can apply for a share of £720,000, plus VAT (Value Added Tax), to develop a demonstrator for automated railway structure gauging processing.
  • Innovation in railway platform end and edge technology
    Opportunity for businesses to apply for a share of £1.08 million, plus VAT, to develop solutions to detect and deter trespass at railway platform ends and edges.
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« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2020, 12:36:01 pm »

The results of this FOAK competition were announced by Grant Shapps yesterday. Loads of winners, some sounding more Heath-Robinsonish that others. Here's a selection, at E&T:
Researchers developing railway station platforms that automatically melt ice have been given a share of £9.4m in Government funding.

The concrete slabs come with a built-in heating system that activates in freezing conditions to prevent dangerous icy conditions for passengers.

Rail Safety and Standards Board figures show that 19 people were killed and more than 7,000 were injured in accidents around platform edges on Britain’s railways in a recent five-year period.

Other projects benefitting from the funding include the Seatfrog Train Swap app, which will allow passengers to quickly and remotely update their seat reservation to another service.

A world-first zero-emission machine for removing and replacing rails has also been developed, along with hydrogen-based steam turbines to provide zero-emission, low-noise rail freight.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “I am delighted to announce the winners of this year’s ‘First of a Kind’ competition which will support better, more environmentally friendly journeys.

“Crucially, these pioneering projects will also ensure that passengers have a more efficient, reliable and responsive railway, making their journeys simpler and easier.

“From clever technology on platforms to prevent icy surfaces, new seat-switching apps and improved 5G Wi-Fi connections, harnessing innovation will be crucial to modernising the network and making our railways greener and cleaner, as we build out of Covid-19 and look to the future.”

In a separate project pioneered by iProov, rail passengers using Eurostar services will soon be able to take advantage of a facial biometric corridor to enable contactless journeys.

The walk-through system will allow customers to complete ticket checks and border exit processes at St Pancras International station without needing to come into contact with people or hardware.

The concept, already trialled in airports to increase speed and safety and manage immigration, is now being brought to train travel as part of a competition run by Innovate UK (United Kingdom) and funded by the Department for Transport.

Passengers planning to travel on Eurostar services would be offered an accelerated pre-boarding option. Prior to travelling, they would use the Eurostar app to scan their identity documentation. The iProov facial biometric check then uses controlled illumination to authenticate the identity of the user against the ID document.
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« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2021, 12:55:13 pm »

The results of another round of FOAKing were announced earlier this month. Given the remit of trying to teeter on the leading edge, and not worry too much about falling over it, a lot of it inevitably looks like froth (and largely networks/AI/software stuff). And addressing the post-Covid world is also a big thing, of course.

A couple of things I noted, in the first case with puzzlement. Lenz Ltd propose "Conditions to Increase Passenger Confidence in Rail Resilience". This would address low adhesion: "To combat this problem, Lenz proposes the novel Traction Hub - a solution that delivers safe and predictable braking whilst improving acceleration performance by retrofitting to the wheelset and increasing adhesion levels at the wheel-rail interface." After a double take yes, that "hub" isn't networking software, it's a physical bit of a wheel. Rather like WSP, in fact - and nowhere in their words do they mention that or anything about what form of superior magic they will employ. Nor how it will increase passenger confidence, other than the obvious one of improving service reliability and timekeeping. 

Then one that sounds like it's been done before (as they often do), Hearing Enhanced Audio Relay (HEAR) (by Gomedia Services Ltd.):
By 2050, 1 in 4 people will have hearing problems in the UK (United Kingdom).

GoMedia will with the support from the Royal National Institute of the Deaf develop and test Hearing Enhanced Audio Relay (HEAR). This solution will address the issue that audio announcements on trains are difficult or impossible to hear for passengers with hearing difficulties. We will develop an affordable software solution that broadcast automatically audio announcements to passengers own devices. It will give passengers with hearing problems the ability to hear audio announcements through their own audio devices. Also passengers can listen to their own content on their device, such as an audiobook. For example, whilst connected to HEAR, the audiobook will pause and make the audio announcement through the passengers own device. HEAR is being developed to be a cost effective solution that can be installed on the majority of train carriages in the UK, and because HEAR is a software solution it will save the UK train industry millions of pounds removing the need to install expensive hardware solutions on board trains. More importantly it will reassure and increase accessibility to the rail network for passengers with hearing problems.

How will this save money on "expensive hardware solutions"? Were TOCs (Train Operating Company) (or GBR (Great British Railways)) intending to install much better and more costly PA (Public Address) systems? I'd have thought they might try maintaining the ones they've got first. Or does it mean not fitting Pt at all - after all people mostly complain about is anyway. Then you only get the announcements if you sign up to get them. What could possibly go wrong with that?
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