Sustainable rail innovation projects receive UK funding

sustainable rail innovation
© iStock/anyaivanova

The UK’s Department for Transport has announced the third round of winners of its First of a Kind (FOAK) competition, aimed at rewarding sustainable rail innovation.

The FOAK competition, funded by the Department for Transport and implemented by the UK’s innovation body Innovate UK, will release a total of £7.8m (€8.76m); with individual winning projects set to receive between £250,000 and £350,000. This round of the competition focused on boosting the resilience of the UK’s rail infrastructure, reducing the impact of rail travel on the environment and minimising noise pollution; and improving rail freight capabilities. Previous rounds were themed around improving passenger experience both on trains and at stations, as well as reducing the carbon footprint of the UK rail industry.

Simon Edmonds, Deputy Executive Chair and Chief Business Officer at Innovate UK, said: “The UK’s rail network delivers significant economic benefits to the nation, providing an environmentally friendly transport system for the movement of both passengers and freight. Yet there is more we can do to boost the reliability of the network, to make it more attractive to freight users, and to make it even greener. The pioneering projects for which we have announced funding today can increase reliability, to keep services running, with real benefits to freight operators and the environment. The programme will also help innovative companies succeed, both here and in export markets.”

Winning projects include:

  • A drone system developed by Amey VTOL which can conduct inspections of rail tracks from above without the need for human intervention;
  • A project by 4Silence, creating a wall which diffuses the sound produced by passing trains; and
  • The Centre for Railway Research at the University of Birmingham, which is trialling trains fuelled by hydrogen.

Rail Minister Andrew Jones said: “The First of a Kind competition has consistently produced truly innovative projects developed for the benefit of passengers, helping to drive forward a greener, cleaner and more efficient rail network. This round has been the biggest yet and I am excited to see how our funding will bring these ambitious ideas to fruition. This government is also investing £48bn [€53.9bn] to modernise our rail network over the next five years, ensuring people have the safe, frequent and punctual journeys they deserve.”


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