HomeEventsWas it interesting for you?

Was it interesting for you?

Listen to this article

Industry awards evenings. Just those words conjure up images of a large room, lots of men in dickie bows and black suits (with the occasional woman in a brightly-coloured dress mixed in), a highly paid yet ineffective comedian who is slightly too blue for his audience, and a well-known person trying to keep order and read out the winners before his audience heads for the bar.

Sounds familiar? Rail Media doesn’t arrange evenings like that. Elsewhere in this issue, you will find a review of the RailStaff Awards. Organised by our sister magazine, it featured 1,000 party-goers, nearly half of them women, a lot in fancy dress, all having a whale of a time watching African-themed entertainment and then riding on the dodgems and falling over in the fun house.

Oh, and 20 awards were given out too – to deserving PEOPLE from the industry, not faceless companies.

It was a great evening. Were you there? Why not? Make sure you are next year – Saturday 8 October at Ricoh Arena, Coventry. Bring your partner and be ready to PARTY!

But if you insist…

However, it must be said that industry awards have their place. So Rail Media organises one of those too but, as you’d expect, with a difference.

For a start, no-one has to enter. After all, companies have spent all year telling Rail Engineer, RailStaff and Global Rail News why their project is so special, what’s new about their latest development, or how a particular initiative is a potential world-beater. So we know what is going on in the industry – you don’t have to tell us again. That saves you time and effort, and means we can include everything that we know about, not just those which can be bothered to enter.

Sadly, though, not all of it is interesting. Even the most high-profile and expensive projects can be routine and some new products are just – dull.

What gets us excited are the interesting things that engineers and others have to do to solve problems. The really neat ways of doing things and the totally off-the-wall ideas that actually work.

Hence – the Most Interesting Awards.

A panel of ‘Industry Experts’ – actually the Rail Engineer, RailStaff and Global Rail News editorial teams – puts together a list of everything that floated their boat during the year from October 2014 to September 2015. Then, once everyone had a fresh cup of coffee, the hard work started. The list was split into twelve categories and then whittled down to six finalists in each. It took quite some time, and a lot more coffee, but only one person stormed out and slammed the door – it was really quite civilised.

However, inter-publication relations were now strained so there was no way that a winner could be decided upon, and anyway it would be unfair for us to be judge and jury, so a group of unsuspecting and independent people was roped in to form the panel of judges. Only one of them said no, pleading excess work (he must have heard us coming), so the rest were duly sent a pack of all the articles featuring the shortlist and asked to rank them in order.

To find out which they picked, you’ll have to come along to the Rail Exec Gala Dinner on Thursday 19 November at Derby’s iconic Roundhouse. There you will be able to network with colleagues, have a good dinner, and witness the awarding of the prizes for yourself. But there will be no comic, and no dickie bows required (unless you want to in which case you can please yourself). There will be some great entertainment and you are guaranteed to have a good time.

A challenge

Before you come, read through the list of finalists below and make your own choice on who will win each category. Fill in the form, which you can download here, and bring it with you. If your selection matches the judges, you could win A SUPER PRIZE on the night. So make sure you join in.

Anyway, listed here are the 72 finalists split amongst the 12 categories. You may even have been involved with some of them, in which case you should bring your colleagues and see if you win. Even if you don’t, you’ll have a good time.

But you will be on the edge of your seat when they say: “And the winner is…”

So, here’s the shortlist:

The Most Interesting

…initiative in safety and sustainability

Selby Swing Bridge Refurbishment

Grid-blasting this 125-year-old swing bridge would have required a full environmental wrap and risked contaminating the bearings. Switching to the Termarust system, using a high-pressure water jet, operating at 8,000psi and 90°C, allowed the paint flakes to be collected easily by a Terram membrane and the uncontaminated water to be returned to the river below.

Audio Guides to Stations for the Sight Impaired

A small headset paired with a Windows Phone application uses bone- conducting technology to transmit information to a partially-sighted or blind person. Working with a network of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi beacons, the application helps both orientation and navigation and also allows the wearer to build up an understanding of their surroundings.

Red Light Cameras at Level Crossings

Jumping lights at level crossings is already an offense but drivers can only be prosecuted if a police officer witnesses the event. New Home Office-approved cameras capture evidence data, digital images and video using a combination of scanning radar, advanced computer video analytics and automatic number plate recognition for the detection of offences.

Wallasea Island

Over three million tonnes of excavated material from Crossrail has been used to raise part of Wallasea Island, in the Thames estuary, by 1.5 metres, creating lagoons and protecting them with new sea-walls. Now the first of those walls has been breached, allowing tidal flow into the marshland and creating an important new intertidal marshland habitat for a variety of plants, invertebrates and birds.

Closed-Cell Cable Insulation

A completely new synthetic rubber has been developed for use as an insulation material around pipes and cables. Armaflex Rail SD is a flexible closed-cell elastomeric foam which is self-extinguishing, does not propagate fire or produce burning droplets. It has an extremely low smoke density and also offers protection against harmful microbes, mould and mildew.

PDSW (Planning & Delivering Safe Work)

PDSW is a wholesale reform of the way infrastructure projects are planned and delivered safely which, ultimately, makes clear who is responsible. It creates the new role of Safe Work Leader (SWL) – a single, accountable person responsible for safe work, from planning through to delivery. PDSW also introduces a new electronic permit tool (Proscient) that allows the SWL to plan, risk assess, deliver and hand back work more efficiently.

The Most Interesting

…original design

ECML Capacity Enhancement

To take best advantage of Hitachi’s new IEP trains, a capacity improvement programme was proposed for the ECML involving 35 separate schemes for a total cost of over £1 billion. That was later reduced to 20 schemes and £650 million. Further discussion led to a revised design with 12 schemes for £247 million as giving best value, showing what original thinking and good design can achieve.

Tomorrow’s Train Design Today

Future Railway’s competition, supported by the Royal Institute for British Architects and the DfT, was formulated to help shape the future of train design in the UK. It was split into two strands, medium and long-term. The initial 48 entrants were whittled down to a short list of 10 and finally three – 42 Technology, PriestmanGoode and Andreas Vogler, which shared £2.2 million to develop their designs further.

VR Design for British Bullet Train

Hitachi’s immersive stand at Railtex 2015 featured a 3D interior walkthrough of the AT400 – the company’s proposal for a high-speed train for HS2. Using 3D glasses to view the virtual-reality display, visitors could witness innovations such as seat reservation lighting, holographic displays and smart tables that interact with passengers’ phones and tablets – just some of the intuitive technology that tomorrow’s high-speed trains could have.

Verve – Train for the UK

Siemens is targeting the long-distance EMU market with its Desiro Verve, the company’s proposed new train for the UK. Cars will be 23 metres long, three metres longer than the Thameslink Desiro City, and will be equipped with uprated bogies to give them a top speed of 125 mph. The Verve features a more aerodynamic front end than the Class 700 and an interior configured for intercity travel.


31 organisations in 12 countries shared the work on this European initiative to increase the performance of the entire rail freight system. In the UK, work was undertaken to design an improved freight bogie and to reduce weight, as well as to develop high-performance track. This was combined with work on coated wheelsets and improved braking that was carried out on the continent, resulting in a final vehicle design that was tested in Romania.

Closed Loop Pantograph

A pantograph operates in a particularly harsh environment. It is exposed to all weathers, it rubs along the overhead contact at high speeds, and up to 300A at 25kV passes through it with, sometimes, severe arcing. Using Fibre Bragg Grating sensors, which are immune to electromagnetic interference, to continuously measure pantograph forces, a control mechanism has been developed to change the contact pressure and ensure a reliable contact with the overhead wire.

The Most Interesting

…development in support equipment

Mobile Flash Butt Welder

With maintenance time on the railway severely constrained, Network Rail ordered 10 Mobile Flash Butt Welders to reduce the time taken to replace defective rails. A Holland flash butt welding head from the USA is married to a Doosan excavator by GOS Engineering and the result is that up to 600 metres of track can now be re-railed, stressed and welded in a single eight- hour shift rather than the four shifts it could take previously.

Forensic Engineering

The Technical Investigation Centre investigates equipment failures in a laboratory setting to identify the cause. It covers most engineering disciplines and provides an independent investigation service for failed assets such as relays, cables, signals, train detection and protection items and electrification equipment. Once the root cause is identified, recommendations are made to reduce the likelihood of failure.

RETB in Scotland

Radio Electronic Token Block train control used the old BR National Radio Network so, when those radio frequencies were reallocated, that caused
a problem. As the aging equipment also needed replacing, a £20 million programme was initiated for Telent to re-engineer all the radio elements within the system. At the same time, Train Protection and Warning System emergency braking was introduced to prevent trains from overrunning a token section.

Road-Rail Land Rovers

Land Rovers are versatile all-terrain vehicles and it is this which makes them so attractive for road-rail applications. Their small size allows them to be put on and off track quickly but also means their payloads are small. Aquarius, the company which makes the road-rail conversions for the vehicles, has developed a range of road-rail trailers which solve this problem by increasing the overall payload. It also allows trailers to be dedicated for particular functions.

Off Load Switching

The increase in electrification activities has led to a demand for new techniques and equipment to make installation easier and operations more efficient. One good example is a new type of load-break switch from Morris Line Engineering which can be operated with the associated circuit breakers closed and the line live. The switch may be opened or closed with load from trains drawing current without damage to the isolator.

Level Crossing Barrier Mechanism Improvements

The arm of a level crossing barrier can be over nine metres long, meaning that the centre of gravity is 4.5 metres from the mechanism that raises it. Long term, this can give rise to reliability issues. Analysis of over 70 failed power packs allowed specialists at Howells Railway Products to come up with a modified design that underwent 50,000 cycles of testing and can be retrofitted to existing installations.

MI Awards 2014 general 2

The Most Interesting

…training and development programme

National Training Academy

With an aging railway workforce coupled with the demand for signalling testers being at an all-time high, Linbrooke’s National Training Academy is primarily geared up to provide training for signalling works testing. The site’s authentic platform and tracks incorporate various styles of signalling, point operating and train detection and protection equipment, providing a realistic and accessible set-up for safe and practical training.

Mobile Technology Training Centre

A self-contained display and demonstration vehicle, Westermo’s Mobile Training & Technology Centre delivers a wealth of technology, demonstrations and new information directly to organisations. The custom-built vehicle provides a comfortable and feature-packed area in which engineers and managers can find out more about the latest communications technologies and discuss which solutions are available for their project.

ORBIS Work Orders

Network Rail is digitising how it manages complex rail assets and infrastructure through ORBIS (Offering Rail Better Information Services). This addresses the way in which data is collected and evaluated, turning it into useful information which, when analysed, can be used to generate predictive insight. One example, the My Work app, has improved the work order management process for maintenance teams across the industry.

Knowledge Without Borders

The Next Generation Rail 2015 conference, organised by RSSB and RRUKA, was an opportunity for the best and brightest of the next generation of Britain’s railway leaders to learn from one another and to broaden their horizons. Entitled ‘Knowledge without Borders’, it included talks from experienced railway professionals from across the world sharing their experiences of running railways in Japan, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United States.

Railway Challenge

The IMechE’s annual competition brings together teams of university students, industry-based apprentices and graduates to develop, design and manufacture a 101⁄4-inch gauge locomotive, with the intention of attracting new blood into the railway industry. The entries are subjected to a range of performance trials and the teams also have to deliver a business case. With seven entries, this year’s was the largest ever, and TfL was also the first team to retain its title.

Brathay Trust

A charity with a mission to improve the life chances of children and young people experiencing difficulties in their lives, Brathay Trust worked with the High Sheriff of Cumbria to create the World of Work event. It allowed businesses to understand the expectations and aspirations of young people taking their first steps towards the world of work. It was also an excellent opportunity for Stobart Rail to inspire young people to pursue careers within the rail industry.

The Most Interesting

…international participation by a UK company

Liefkenshoek Rail Link

Connecting both banks of the Port of Antwerp, the Liefkenshoek rail link is a direct route of 16.2km for freight traffic between the port facilities on the left bank, the Waaslandhaven and the Deurganck Dock, and the right bank – the Antwerp North marshalling yard. It has the longest rail tunnels in Belgium running at a depth of up to 40 metres under the Scheldt river – more than half of the railway runs through tunnels.

Frecciarossa 1000

Built in Italy by a partnership of Bombardier and AnsaldoBreda, the new Frecciarossa 1000 – officially a V300ZEFIRO – has a top commercial speed of 360km/h and is capable of reaching 400km/h – making it the fastest regular passenger train. A total of 50 eight-car Frecciarossa 1000 trains have been ordered.

Rhine-Ruhr Express

Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia public transport bodies have awarded National Express two of the three operating contracts for the region’s future Rhine-Ruhr Express (RRX) network, six new lines connecting the cities of Cologne, Dusseldorf and Dortmund. National Express has said the contracts, which commence in 2018 and 2020 through to 2033, will generate around €1 billion.

Norwegian ERTMS Programme

Jernbaneverket, the Norwegian infrastructure manager, has taken the decision to adopt ERTMS nationwide with a project lasting from the present day until 2030. It is only the second country to have taken this bold step and it has been influenced in part by its near neighbour, Denmark, which made a similar pronouncement back in 2012. The Norwegian project is to be based on three major signalling contracts covering the whole main line railway network.

Montpellier Bypass

The first ‘combined’ high-speed railway in France, designed to carry both passengers and freight, this €1.8 billion bypass of the railway bottleneck at Montpellier joins the existing Mediterranean high speed line at Redessan just to the south of Nimes and connects with the route near Lattes on to southern France and Spain. The joint venture includes Colas and Colas Rail (both Bouygues Construction subsidiaries), Alstom and Systra.

California High-Speed Rail

As the California high-speed rail project gathers pace, WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff will work on a seven-year, $700 million rail delivery partner contract with the California High-Speed Rail Authority and has Network Rail Consulting, the international consultancy arm of Network Rail, as part of its consultant team. Meanwhile, Jacobs has been awarded a contract to provide design services for the Construction Package 2-3 (CP 2-3), the continuation of construction south towards Kern County.

The Most Interesting

…railway infrastructure development

Markshall Farm

The steep cutting sides of Markshall Farm Curve, near Norwich, have caused problems for years. The site is 600 metres long with access only at one end, so the solution chosen by designer Byrne Looby Partners was to lay a heavy mesh material over the cutting slope. Main contractor B&M McHugh and Aspin Foundations used rope access and Platipus Anchors to secure sheets of Maccaferri Macmat® type R erosion matting/mesh over a 12 week period.

Farnworth Tunnel

What do you do when a tunnel is too small? The answer, in the case of Farnworth tunnel near Bolton, is to fill it in and then start again from scratch. J.Murphy & Sons used 7,500m3 of foam concrete to fill the existing northbound tunnel, built in 1838. A nine-metre diameter tunnel boring machine then re- bored the tunnel – taking out concrete, old brickwork and some virgin hillside – to construct a new tunnel 270 metres long, wide enough for two tracks and electrification.

Platform Extensions on North London Line

The London Overground Capacity Improvement Programme (LOCIP) extended 31 platforms over 17 stations to accommodate five-car trains. However, some had to be extended over unstable ground, requiring piling, while others were over bridges which had to be widened or replaced. Dyer & Butler, working with Tony Gee, came up with several novel solutions and the project was delivered in less than 12 months using 3D modelling and Level 2 BIM.

Train Detection in Summit Tunnel

Following a disastrous fire in 1984, the old high-powered reed tunnel track circuits were reinstated but without the mid-point repeater. This led to reliability problems and increased maintenance. Other solutions were tried, unsuccessfully. The system has now been replaced with one of the first installations of Bombardier’s EBITrack 400, which can be fed by very long cables, keeping all of the equipment outside of the tunnel for easy maintenance.

Scarborough Bridge

Just 40 metres off the end of Platform 4 at York, the four 22-metre wrought iron and timber spans were 140 years old and badly in need of replacement. Story Contracting faced the challenges of getting the new bridge decks through York’s road system and finding somewhere to place the huge crane and two smaller cranes that would be needed. Narrow streets, tree preservation orders and 16” water mains made thorough planning and liaison with local bodies essential.

Stafford Area Improvement Programme

An upgrade which encompasses eleven new bridges, 10km of 100mph track, major river and road diversions and three new junctions is a major project. Part of a £250 million scheme, it is designed to remove the last major bottleneck on the WCML, at Norton Bridge. Delivered by a Pure Alliance of Atkins, Laing O’Rourke, Network Rail and VolkerRail, the work includes creation of a grade separated junction and resignalling Stafford station.

The Most Interesting

…approach to train operations

Chaffers Lane Level Crossing

Located at Bakerhouse Road, Nelson, Chaffers Lane crossing is unusual as it is operated by the train crew and not by a crossing operator. The driver has to bring the train to a halt, reach out of the window, and pull a chord to start the crossing sequence. Changing this to an automatic, treadle-triggered operation required risk assessments and standards derogations, making it more complicated than might be imagined.

IPEMU Battery Train

Fitting batteries to an electric multiple unit (EMU) allows it to go off the electrified network onto non-electrified branch lines, or into depots, or to carry on working if the infrastructure has failed. Those batteries can be recharged once the train returns to the network. The Independently Powered EMU, a joint project conducted by Network Rail, train owner Abellio and manufacturer Bombardier to prove the concept, was tested in passenger service.


With the increasing centralisation of signalling control, failures have a much greater impact. Trains can be stopped for extended periods before permission is granted for them to move under temporary working arrangements. The Combined Positioning Alternative Signalling System (COMPASS) uses all the modern forms of communication to determine train position, direction and speed so that a movement authority can be given for a train to proceed.

Alert Gateway for Data Monitoring

There are now so many sources of data on the railway system that information overload becomes a real problem. The London Underground Asset Performance, Jubilee Northern & Piccadilly line (APJNP) control centre alone receives 225,000 individual alerts triggering more than 200,000 alarms per day – 1,800 per minute. Telent’s new Alert Gateway System presents only those actually requiring action to the operators.

Northern Line goes CBTC

Following much-publicised problems in converting the Jubilee line to Communications Based Train Control (CBTC), the Northern line has recently been fully equipped and commissioned using Thales Seltrac CBTC technology with only minimum disruption to the train service and hardly any of the users even noticing that an upgrade had taken place. As a result, capacity has increased to 26 trains per hour (tph) on the Bank branch, and 30tph down to Morden.

Introduction of Class 319

Northern Rail’s introduction of a fleet of Class 319 EMUs on the newly electrified Liverpool Lime Street-Manchester Airport route has brought about a new, enhanced, role for onboard staff. The 319s have door controls spread across the vehicle, allowing conductors to remain with passengers throughout their journey. Northern has implemented a new training course to help them adapt to this more customer-facing role.

The Most Interesting

…community engagement activity

Earls Court Station

Over the last two Christmas holidays, Track Partnership (London Underground and Balfour Beatty) renewed track and ballast through one of London Underground’s busiest stations. The overall station public/workforce segregation was commended by the general station manager as there were no complaints from passengers and no-one in the station was really aware of any works going on, such was the lack of intrusion or disturbance.

New Route to the West

The destruction of the railway at Dawlish in February 2014 left Cornwall and West Devon cut off for two months. Network Rail looked at the cost of constructing various alternative routes but couldn’t justify the expense. Now Greengauge 21 and the Campaign to Protect Rural England has proposed the reuse of the old LSWR route through Okehampton and is pressing for a political decision to be taken rather than a strictly commercial one.

Borders Railway

As passenger services resume on the Borders Railway, the Campaign for Borders Rail has urged those lobbying for the reopening of other rail lines to learn the lessons of its 17-year struggle to galvanise public opinion and convince Borderers that they really could get their railway back. The Levenmouth Rail Campaign, seeking to reopen a six mile branch line in Fife, and STARLink, which wants the same at St Andrews, are learning from the Borders experience.

Lend A Helping Hand Campaign

The platform-train interface, the gap between the platform edge and the train, is a dangerous place. Statistically, four people a year die there with young (intoxicated) men and older women those most at risk. To combat this, the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) has recently launched a platform-train interface strategy. Staff at stations are being briefed and the risks highlighted in a series of press adverts and posters.

TravelSafe Policing

A dedicated policing team has been deployed across Manchester’s tram and bus crime ‘hotspots’ over the next three years under a new Travelsafe Partnership pilot. The three-year pilot scheme will see 16 police constables, police community support officers, special constables and security personnel deployed across Greater Manchester’s bus and tram network. Data gathered from operators will be used to target patrols where they are most needed.

Crossrail Archaeology

To date, Crossrail has found more than 10,000 artefacts spanning 55 million years of London’s past at over 40 construction sites. It is the UK’s largest archaeology project. Preliminary excavations at the Liverpool Street site in 2011 and 2012 uncovered more than 400 skeletons and numerous artefacts. More recently, a mass burial site suspected of containing 30 victims of the Great Plague of 1665 has been unearthed at the same site.

MI Awards 2014 general 3

The Most Interesting

…major infrastructure project

Selby Swing Bridge Refurbishment

The 40-metre long Span 4 of Selby Swing Bridge, built in 1889, can be rotated through 90° to lie parallel with the northern bank of the River Ouse. 125 years later, and with 130 trains a day crossing the bridge, a complete rebuild was needed. Principal contractor Kier Group subcontracted most of the mechanical, electrical and hydraulic engineering work to AMCO. Both the bridge and the swing mechanism were rebuilt during a six-week blockade.

Birmingham New Street Station

The £600 million overhaul of Birmingham New Street has resulted in a much brighter, bigger and more modern station with lifts and escalators linking all platforms to concourse level for the first time, significantly improving accessibility and passenger flows. Designed to cope with 40,000 to 60,000 passengers a day, the station now handles around 175,000 – 35,000 more than when Network Rail started the refurbishment six years ago.

Stockley Viaduct

Heathrow Connect services, which will become Crossrail trains in due course, had to go the wrong way on two separate lines to access the airport. This clearly constrained the service so a new twin-track bridge was built over Christmas 2014 by Carillion, to a design by Jacobs, to carry the lines safely over the Great Western. Although now in service, more work will be needed over the next two Christmas breaks to complete the complex task of installing the access ramps.

Harbury Landslip

On 31 January, 350,000 tonnes of embankment, extending for over 150 metres, slipped on the approach to Harbury Tunnel near Cheltenham, closing the route. Engineers from J Murphy & Sons were already on site, dealing with an earlier problem, so they were quickly engaged. 560,000 tonnes of material was removed from the site and remedial work carried out on the damaged tunnel portal. The work was completed inside six weeks, three weeks earlier than anticipated.

Winchburgh Tunnel

As part of EGIP electrification, Winchburgh tunnel, just east of Linlithgow on the route out of Edinburgh Waverley, required track lowering up to 200 mm and the installation of slab track at a cost of £17 million. As a result, Scotland’s busiest line was blocked for 44 days. Principal contractor Morgan Sindall chose the ÖBB- PORR Austrian slab track system for the tunnel and also installed a new drainage system and fixings for the electrification conductors.

Carmuirs Tunnel

The twin single-bore tunnels at Carmuirs did not have sufficient clearance for electrification. Rather than drop the track through the tunnels, contactor BAM Nuttall removed all of the ground over them, converting the twin bores into a cutting. The Forth & Clyde canal, which ran over the top of the original tunnels, was blocked and removed, then reinstated in a concrete aqueduct constructed from precast segments.

The Most Interesting

...new product

ERTMS from Hitachi

Hitachi has emerged as a significant potential contributor for ERTMS signalling systems within Europe. The company has been developing an ETCS-type product for the past eight years for the Chinese market – CTCS 3 (Chinese Train Control System) is equivalent to ETCS Level 2 but without some of the sub-set requirements. Now, Hitachi’s on board equipment is on test in the UK at ENIF (ETCS National Integration Facility) fitted to a Class 97 locomotive.

Fuel-cell Powered Trains

Fuel cell drives convert chemical energy from a fuel (hydrogen) into electricity through a chemical reaction – a proven technology used in the automotive industry which is completely emission-free, the only waste product being water. Alstom is building 50 Coradia trains powered by fuel cell technology. They will use less energy, thanks to an intelligent energy management system, and the noise level will be drastically reduced compared to conventional diesel trains.

High Performance Track

Managing Rolling Contact Fatigue (RCF) is both costly and time consuming in an industry that has a drive towards lower maintenance costs, shorter maintenance windows and greater track availability. To combat RCF, Tata Steel has produced HP335, a High Performance rail steel with a minimum Brinell hardness of 335HB. 600km of this new rail is now in use, delivering life cycle cost savings which equate to a seven- figure cost saving per year.

New Interface for Old SSI

Solid State Interlocking (SSI) accounts for approximately 45% of UK interlockings and is used throughout the world. It is highly likely to be in use for many years to come, despite being a 30 year old electronic and software product. As the typical life for this sort of technology in other industries is 10 years, ongoing support can present problems. Park Signalling has produced a range of equipment to interface with SSI, making it compatible with modern technologies.

Oscar Helmet

In a bid to make track work both safer and more efficient, Colas Rail has developed Oscar 2.0, a multi-functional worksite helmet. Three novel functions have been built into it. One detects that the wearer is too close to overhead AC lines and sends a warning signal. The second is a built-in communications system between wearers with a 250-metre range, and the helmet also includes three separate integrated lighting modes, ambient and directional.

Spacetherm Insulation for Points Heaters

Points heaters, electric heating elements clipped to the rails which make up a set of points, prevent ice forming and keep the switch blades moving. However, they are quite inefficient as a lot of the heat is lost to the atmosphere. A Proctor Group has developed the Spacetherm® Point Heat Retainer Strip which offers improved performance by directing the heat towards and into the rail, reducing the energy consumed in heating the points system and improving response times.

The Most Interesting


Blown Fibre

Burying cable in pipes is not new, with cables being pulled through on a draw wire. However, the pipe would often sag or even break over time and inserting additional cable could be difficult if not impossible. Emtelle has developed a system of different sized ducts which can be reeled on a drum and buried using a mole plough. Bundles of fibre-optic cable can then be blown through the duct using compressed air for distances of up to two kilometres in one operation.

Rail Adhesion Simulation

Contaminants on steel railway tracks can cause adhesion problems for trains. One of the most common lubricants is the result of leaves being crushed under steel wheels, leaving a thin and very slippery residue. To understand what is happening, ESG has developed WSPER – the wheel slide protection evaluation rig – which simulates these conditions in a laboratory so the effectiveness of braking and management systems can be tested under controlled conditions.

Unlocking Innovation

The Railway Industry Association’s Unlocking Innovation scheme seeks to help the UK supply chain overcome obstacles to innovation. It does so through an ongoing series of workshops which encourage networking and help those present to understand the opportunities for funding and collaboration. Innovators are also given a platform to present their latest ideas to a wider audience and seek potential collaborators.

3D Planning of Pre-Assembly

Siemens uses 3D projection to display the components and assemblies of a new train straight out of the design software. Wearing 3D glasses, viewers can select each element of the train and see how it interacts with others. By panning and rotating the view, objects can be inspected from all sides. The build sequence can be tested and any conflicts, whereby a component cannot be installed as it will be blocked by something else, can be sorted out before manufacture commences.

Obstacle Detection on Level Crossings

Obstacle Detection (OD) crossings use radar to confirm a crossing is clear from road vehicles and pedestrians before allowing the protecting signals to come off and trains to proceed. As in all signalling applications, a failsafe interlocking is key to safe operation. Programmable logic controller control systems can now be used in place of relay-based systems as they take up less space, do not need an equipment room, require fewer cables and deliver higher reliability.


Modern signalling permits shorter headways, but nodes such as junctions and stations can significantly reduce capacity. Studying the impact of these nodes, Loughborough University asked interested parties what they wanted from a set of points. The answer was instantaneous switching, no maintenance, no failures, no space requirement, zero energy usage, no speed restriction and zero cost. REPOINT is the University’s radical new switch design to help meet these needs.

The Most Interesting other thing we saw in 2015

Watercress Line Signalling

The Mid Hants Railway’s Watercress Line runs from Alton to Alresford in Hampshire. With growing traffic levels, one-train working between Medstead and Alton was becoming a serious restriction. A new loop was constructed, with a new signal box to control it, but the Watercress signalling experts devised a method of intelligent signal and point control such that operations can continue with the box closed and reversion to one-train working.

Channel Tunnel Fire Suppression

At 31.4 miles long, the Channel Tunnel has the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world. Three fires, all on trains carrying lorries, have resulted in a great emphasis being placed on fire suppression and control. A full-tunnel simulator allows staff to practice dealing with fires and, once a year, the tunnel is closed entirely overnight so that a full-scale practice can take place. Trains carry smoke hoods and a water-spray suppression system is installed in the tunnel.

Rope Access Inspections

There are a host of large structures on the railway, many of them inaccessible. To install scaffolding to inspect them on a regular basis would be impractical so examinations of viaducts (both externally and inside internal voids), tunnel vents and portals, steep cutting sides and even some station interiors are carried out by engineers using rope access. All have been through intensive training and the safety record is impressive.

New Approach to Asset Management (ORBIS)

To manage, maintain and renew a cost-effective, efficient and modern railway system, it is imperative to identify all infrastructure assets, where they are located and what condition they are in. All of this information is being brought together as part of an initiative called ORBIS (Offering Rail Better Information Services), a transformation programme designed to improve the way Network Rail acquires its asset information, how it is captured, stored and used.

Moulsford Viaduct

There are two Moulsford Viaducts, side by side. Outwardly similar, the first was built by Brunel in 1839 while the second, to increase capacity, opened in 1892. However, internally they were very different. Brunel’s structure is full of cleverly designed voids to reduce weight and cost. The later structure is not. Providing permanent access from between the two bridges, to remove the need to close the railway and access the interiors from above, was therefore a challenge.

Chris Scott Inventor

The sense of innovation that characterised the Victorian railway age is not dead. There are still problems for which there are no off-the-shelf solutions. Chris Scott is one of the people who solve those problems, in his case particularly those involving tunnels. These include mobile crash decks, protective workforce shelters, a 10-tonne bogie for transporting materials that ran along the six-foot and an elevating platform for drilling 6,200 holes into Whiteball tunnel.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.