Smart Transport

DfT announces winners of £9m rail technology competition

Train station

The Department for Transport (DfT) has revealed the 30 projects which will share £9 million investment to launch rail technology ideas.

Now in its fifth round, this year’s First of a Kind (FOAK) competition focused on technology which can improve journeys for travellers, encourage passengers back onto the network post-Covid-19 and reduce the environmental impacts of rail.

The competition, held in partnership with Innovate UK, was open to inventors from across the nation, regardless of the organisation’s size or stature.

Winning projects include:

  • A scheme that aims to deliver a train running on hydrogen and a hydrogen gas blend promising low emissions.
  • A system to monitor people flow, congestion points and behaviour at stations, so operators can remove bottlenecks and deploy countermeasures, helping people avoid crowds and restoring passenger confidence in the rail system post-Covid-19.
  • A scheme that provides an interchangeable interior train carriage for quick, deep cleaning and allows operators to rejig a trains seating layout at short notice – reacting to demand, keeping passengers safe and freeing up space.
  • An app that connects rail travellers to the world outside their window and brings the route to life. As passengers travel, the app uses geo-location to immerse them in the history and stories of the places they travel through.
  • A project that uses electromagnetism to deliver safe and predictable braking in harsh conditions, while improving acceleration.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “The competition always throws up surprises and the ideas shown today could transform how we travel in future.”

Simon Edmonds, deputy executive chair and chief business officer, Innovate UK, said: “As we move ever closer to getting past the pandemic, passengers are returning to the railway. To give them ever greater confidence that rail is safe and sustainable, we called upon UK innovators to come up with fresh ideas.

“Yet again the response has been fantastic. Not only will passengers benefit from these great innovations, but business prospects are bright in this sector too.”

Previous winners include the LoCe (Less oil, Cleaner exhaust) project that secured £398,000 in 2020.

The project has developed new diesel exhaust technology that reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by around 80%.

The technology has been fitted to a Porterbrook-owned Class 170 Turbostar, operated by East Midlands Railway, and has subsequently reduced engine emissions.

Watch now: Connecting Policy To Solutions Virtual Conference 2021

Smart Transport Conference returned on June 8th & 9th, to facilitate pivotal discussions on the future of transport. 

The UK’s most senior public and private sector transport leaders discussed the impact of Covid-19, achieving the Government’s decarbonisation ambitions, the need for more efficient living and better health, and much more.

Keynote speakers included: 

Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who spoke on BEIS's approach to decarbonising transport, particularly the electrification of the vehicle industry

Keith Williams, co-author of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, who spoke on rail’s role in integrated transport, decarbonisation and innovation.

Rachel Maclean, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Transport, who discussed the future of transport and its pivotal role in a ‘green recovery’ from the pandemic.


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