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Author Topic: Searching for the next Brunel  (Read 10267 times)
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« on: January 15, 2020, 05:45:18 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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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« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2022, 15:00:59 »

I think this is the next batch of new FOAKs - or are they still Facorns at this stage?

Your eye will probably be caught by the one DfT» (Department for Transport - about) have led on, labelling it "self-charging trains of tomorrow to revolutionise British rail travel". Though isn't there a conservation law against that sort of thing? (I mean energy, not newts or whitebeams.)Other news reports have used the same wording, even though it makes no sense (e.g. this from the BBC» (British Broadcasting Corporation - home page) - though they added a protective "so-called".).
A project that has been developing so-called self-charging trains has won a share of £5m of government funding.

Echion Technologies, based in Sawston near Cambridge, is creating train batteries that can charge from overheard wires, the Department for Transport said.

The trains would be able to use the batteries on unelectrified track.

The project was among the winners of the government's First of a Kind competition.

I'm not sure why that label was used, as it's actually about Echion's better anode material that can enable the high charge rates of LTO and the high energy density of Li-ion to be combined. But it's hard to find that out, since it's been left out of the list of winners from KTN (and other lists too).

Allegedly that enables charging on the move - so I guess "self" is meant in the sense that the charger in on-board. But, in any case, doesn't charging off OLE (Overhead Line Equipment, more often "OHLE") need a lower peak rate than doing it during a short stop? Especially given the limited power available from OLE.

This year's projects seem to me to be a bit more realistic than before - even rather mundane. And hasn't Varamis been working on its "new" parcels trains for several years already? This is an incomplete list of the projects.
    G-Volution – using fuel cells to make auxiliary power in trains cleaner
    PathPlanner – making rail freight an easier option
    Varamis – transforming high-speed rail logistics to send parcels
    Hack Partners – automating freight access right management and spot bidding using novel software to drive the shift from road to rail
    TDI – “Freight Skate”, a self-powered freight bogie and platform
    Peak to Peak – a rapidly deployable rail stress sensor for next generation freight monitoring
    EventGo – Intelligent Rail Service Demand Forecasting for Event-based Travel
    Artonezero – NextGen Data-Driven Timetable Performance Optimisation Tool
    One Big Circle – Protection and Resilience for overhead lines using Computer Vision Techniques
    Thales – Fibre Optic Acoustic Sensing Enabled Intruder Detection System
    University of Sheffield – Rail Flood Defender
    Govia Thameslink – Optimal Prediction of Sand for Adhesion, reducing delays in wet conditions
    Focus Sensors – Unauthorised Cable Removal and Fault Triage (preventing cable theft)
    Trains with Brains – a head to toe monitoring solution
    Optimising Railway Possessions – simplifying planning and management of worksites
    Monirail – Portable Track Geometry Measurement System, analysing track damage after incidents to ensure safety
    Park Signalling – open access real-time signalling data
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« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2022, 17:05:05 »

There is another list given by Envirotec magazine which has more (perhaps all) the project details. The "self-charging trains" one says this:
Project title:            UBER – Ultra-high power Battery for low Emission Rail
Lead organisation:   ECHION TECHNOLOGIES LTD
Project grant:          £59,917
Short summary:

Supported by Transport Design International, Horiba Mira and DB» (Deutsche Bahn - German State Railway - about) Cargo, the team aims to demonstrate its XNO battery chemistry for certain classes of battery electric trains. Specifically, it aims to demonstrate its suitability for passenger trains that can be powered by the AC overhead electrification and charge a battery from the overhead wire (or another form of ‘standard’ trackside power, eg third rail), to then run in battery-only mode on unelectrified sections of a route.

It's less than £60,000 because those were the rules for this bit of this FOAK round. Here are some of those rules, which explain some of the "why did they say that" stuff:
This competition is part of a larger ‘first of a kind’ demonstrator initiative, on behalf of DfT» (Department for Transport - about). The initiative aims to accelerate innovation in the UK (United Kingdom) rail sector and enable technologies to be readily and efficiently integrated into the railway system. This competition is the sixth in the first of a kind portfolio.

This first of a kind competition has three themes:

    Theme 1 – Low emissions and a greener railway (this theme)
    This is phase 1 of a potential 2 phase competition. The decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1 and assessment of a separate application into a subsequent phase 2 competition. Only the successful applicants from phase 1 will be invited to apply to take part in phase 2.
    Theme 2 – Rail Freight
    Theme 3 – Cost efficiency and performance priorities for a reliable railway

Your phase 1 project can start by 1 October 2022 and must end by 31 December 2022; it can last up to 3 months.

Your potential phase 2 projects can start by 1 March 2023 and must end by 31 October 2024, with a duration of up to 20 months.
Specific focuses for theme 1

You must address reduced carbon emissions and the impact of the railway on the environment. Your project can focus on one or more of the following:

    technology solutions to substantially reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) when diesel passenger trains are idling
    passenger trains that can be powered by the AC overhead electrification and charge a battery from the overhead wire, to then run in battery only mode on unelectrified section of a route
    battery or hydrogen powered freight trains
The phase 1 project R&D contracts will be up to £60,000 inclusive of VAT (Value Added Tax). We expect to fund up to 7 projects.

Phase 2 involves up to 3 contracts being awarded to organisations chosen from the successful phase 1 applicants. Up to £740,000 inclusive of VAT will be allocated for each contract, to develop a prototype and undertake field testing for up to 20 months.

I wonder whether they did really miss their own deadline for the awards, or had notified them earlier and this is just a public announcement.
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