UK launches New Round of Multi-Million Technology Competition to improve Rail Services

Approximately £7.9 million is on offer to develop cutting-edge ways to improve the UK rail network for passengers in the next round of the Accelerating Innovation in Rail (AIR) scheme, run by the Department for Transport (DfT) in partnership with Innovate UK.

The competition is open to companies of all sizes across the UK, but all entries must be collaborative, involving at least two different organisations and at least one SME. Entries will be accepted from 18 September to 15 November 2017.

Lightweight energy-saving carriages, software telling passengers how busy arriving trains are, and personalised ticket machines that help customers with their ongoing journeys are just some of the projects that have previously won funding in the government’s railways innovation scheme.

Rail Minister Paul Maynard commented: “We want to see ideas that improve reliability on the network for passengers. We have a wealth of pioneering, innovative companies out there ready to put their ideas into practice.”

“This is about nurturing innovation on the railways and about developing trains that are less reliant on complex and expensive infrastructure. We want to tap into these inventive and ground-breaking ideas for the benefit of rail passengers across the country, and to support the biggest modernisation programme in rail since the Victorian era”, he said.

The last funding round in March this year attracted a diverse range of entries, including designing automated vehicles to carry out track inspections, improving trackside drainage to cut delays and line closures, and software to predict when potential train breakdowns might occur

The funding has been allocated through a rigorous assessment process involving experts from the industry, and has attracted up to £4 million in private sector finance as well. Following successful testing and demonstration, successful projects will have the potential to be rolled out across the network.

The competition is run by DfT in partnership with Innovate UK, and includes multiple schemes such as lightweight energy-saving carriages, software providing information about the arriving trains and personalised ticket machines. UK Rail Minister Paul Maynard said: “We want to see ideas that improve reliability on the network for passengers. We have a wealth of pioneering, innovative companies out there ready to put their ideas into practice. “This is about nurturing innovation on the railways and about developing trains that are less reliant on complex and expensive infrastructure.”

The competition is open to all companies in the UK, though entries must be collaborative in nature, including a minimum of two different organisations and at least one small and medium-sized enterprise (SME). Entries will be accepted from 18 September through to 15 November. DfT previously initiated a similar funding round in March that also involved multiple initiatives, including designing automated vehicles to carry out track inspections, improving trackside drainage to cut delays and line closures, and software to detect potential train breakdowns. The projects are due to be implemented across the UK rail network following successful demonstration and testing.

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