The United Kingdom is on the verge of revolutionising its rail transport system through investments in clean technology in an attempt to make its railways greener than ever before.
To this end, self-charging trains could make their way onto Britain’s railways, transforming the future of transport, as the country moves to remove harmful emissions from train exhausts and power its railways with renewable energy.
This year, the British government, in partnership with Innovate UK, awarded 24 innovators with grants of up to £400,000 each to bring their innovations to life, as part of the First of a Kind 2022 competition. The competition focused on new concepts that will transform rail travel for passengers and decarbonising the network.
This year’s competition winners including:
- Varamis is revolutionising parcel delivery in the UK by repurposing former passenger carriages and putting rail right at the heart of the online shopping boom to create high-speed, non-letter delivery services.
- Echion Technologies is developing batteries that will charge from overhead wires and use that charge to ‘leapfrog’ across unelectrified section of track and, effectively, create self-charging trains; and
- Thales Ground Transportation Systems developed new sensors which will detect people approaching tracks, pin down their location, and give an early warning to staff – lifesaving technology that will reduce disruption and could act as suicide intervention or even stop protestors getting on the tracks.
"The UK has a long history of leading the way in railway innovation and the First of a Kind competition is getting the great brains of today to create the trains of tomorrow," says Transport Secretary, Mark Harper. "Through millions of pounds worth of government funding, we are breathing life into ideas that will revolutionise our railways and make them greener than ever before," he added.
The First of a Kind competition has already helped launch over 100 projects that are having a transformative effect across the entire industry including Riding Sunbeams' project which power railways with sunlight, and 4Silence’s sound bending walls which cancel out noise pollution from the railway.
In previous competitions, hundreds of companies from all over the UK have demonstrated the quality of their innovations and this year's competition was no exception.
From automatic systems that detect and stop track flooding, to cutting-edge electric drivetrains that replace polluting diesel engines, to new technologies that instantly relays track information to improve and modernise rail safety, the UK is indeed leading the way in railway innovation.