Rail Innovation Factory
Connected Places Catapult (CPC) and Network Rail have announced a strategic partnership focused on the development of innovative technology within the rail sector. The ‘Innovation Factory’ under which the agreement will take place is part of Network Rail’s five-year £357 million Research and Development (R&D) portfolio.

Helen Wylde, Chief Engagement Officer at the CPC said: “There is significant appetite within Network Rail to increase the agility and pace of delivering innovation into the rail sector, which we are excited to support. New technologies and approaches are sweeping the transport industry and opening up an array of possibilities for improved operations on the rail network and end user experience. In our role as Innovation Partner we will be focused on creating an innovation pipeline that can make these possibilities a reality.”

Martin Frobisher, Group director, Safety, Technical & Engineering at Network Rail added: “We are in a time of unprecedented opportunity from technology and the emergence and growth of new companies. The joint work from Network Rail’s R&D Portfolio and CPC on the Innovation Factory will help us make the most of this opportunity, driving innovation at pace and reaching out to a broader range of companies that will help us make a real difference to passengers and freight customers.”

Take a moment
Industry 158 bRiding on the success it has seen in the aeronautical and maritime industries, Moment, a French company specialised in entertainment and digital passenger services for transport stakeholders, is now providing the rail sector with its advanced entertainment platform.

With its agile digital solution, Moment provides railway companies with an innovative entertainment offer. Based on wireless technology and operating without connectivity, the platform allows passengers to connect from their electronic devices, via browser or application, to a range of services.

The implementation of such a solution on board trains enables railway companies to personalise their offering with a focus on value-added services allowing travellers to access content (films, series, music, travel information etc) in addition to enjoying offers proposed by the company.

“With this new offering developed for the rail sector, we want to help railway companies meet the digital challenge and transform the perception of rail journeys,” says Tanguy Morel, CEO and co-founder of Moment. With its modular software, the technologically advanced entertainment platform can be easily adapted to the operator’s existing infrastructure. Moreover, it enables companies to develop a wide range of connected services and it is perfectly adapted to improve the on board passenger experience.

TfWM wins top honour
Industry 158 cTransport for West Midlands (TfWM) has been named best in the UK for third time in four years after landing the main award at the transport industry’s equivalent to the Oscars.

TfWM, which is the region’s transport authority, and which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), took home the City Region Transport Authority of the Year at the National Transport Awards in London.

The award was in recognition of progress made in recent years through unprecedented investment in public transport infrastructure and increased passenger numbers on Metro, rail and bus.

Also cited was the setting up of the Regional Transport Coordination Centre (RTCC), through which all transport operators and authorities covering the West Midlands work together to keep the network moving during major incidents and events.

And TfWM’s work to the transform the way we travel through the cutting-edge Future Mobility Zone and 5G test bed initiatives, such as the development of connected and autonomous vehicle technology, was also highlighted.

WMCA chief executive Deborah Cadman said: “TfWM has many achievements to be proud of which include an increase in passenger numbers on Metro, rail and bus. The projects which landed this award are helping to deliver a far bigger prize for the West Midlands, one of economic growth, more jobs and greater prosperity.”

Boost for rail R&D
Industry 158 dThe UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) is set to receive millions of pounds in investment from Network Rail to boost UK rail research and development. The Network Rail Research Framework agreement will see contracts signed with eight UKRRIN universities to bolster innovation in the sector. The research will focus on the UKRRIN key themes of digital systems, rolling stock and infrastructure.

Funding will be spread across the University of Birmingham, University of Huddersfield, University of Southampton, Newcastle University, Loughborough University, University of Nottingham, University of Sheffield and Heriot Watt University. These universities are already working in partnership with industry undertaking research and development work and innovation projects that are seeing new products and services being developed and brought to market.

Professor Simon Iwnicki, Director at the Institute of Railway Research, University of Huddersfield added: “The framework agreements with Network Rail will give increased stability to the

University teams which are supporting the UKRRIN network. Here at Huddersfield we are putting in place world class facilities to support the UKRRIN Rolling Stock Centre of Excellence and the commitment which Network Rail are demonstrating through the agreements will allow us to engage with them on a number of research projects aimed at improving the performance and reliability of the railway network.”

Help from the CATS
Greater Anglia is training up office staff to help customers when stations are busy due to big events or disruption. The support staff, known as Customer Action Teams – or CATs – make a beeline for their nearest station when needed to provide extra help and support to customers and station colleagues. Greater Anglia’s Managing Director, Jamie Burles, noted that when stations are busy, having extra people available to help can make all the difference. “It’s all part of our commitment to continually improving customers’ experience when they travel with us,” he added.

Going greener
Eurostar is celebrating its 25th anniversary with ambitious new commitments reinforcing its position as the most sustainable choice for short-haul European travel. On 14th Nov Eurostar ran its first ever plastic-free train between London and Paris. Eurostar has also been awarded the highest rating of three stars from the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), which demands a very high standard of sustainability with ingredients that are seasonal, Fairtrade or organic, not air-freighted and sourced from farmers with high environmental and welfare standards. Finally, from 1st Jan 2020, Eurostar has pledged to plant a tree for every train service that it operates across its routes.

Rail programming
The Railway Industry Association (RIA) and ITN Productions Industry News have co-produced Rail Matters, a news and current affairs-style programme exploring the people and processes that are driving the rail system into the future. Rail Matters, anchored by national newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky, OBE, features the ongoing vital improvements and enhancements being made to our network today and looks at the network’s plans to enable a more resilient railway of tomorrow.

The programme can be seen on the RIA website: www.riagb.org.uk/RIA/Newsroom/Rail_Matters.aspx

Family friendly
Heathrow Express, which provides the fastest route between Paddington Station and Heathrow Central, has been awarded the ‘Friendly WiFi’ safe certification, which proves its WiFi service is keeping passengers safe by filtering out inappropriate content throughout the train company’s 15-minute journey.

Venues and locations displaying the Friendly WiFi symbol, have proven that their WiFi filters deny access to pornography and webpages known to host indecent images of children and advertisements or links to such content.

The scheme is a government-initiated safe certification standard for public WiFi run by RDI (UK).

Les Freer, Director of Heathrow Express said: “We are proud to be the first airport express service to be Friendly WiFi accredited which confirms our long history of safe and secure browsing. It’s important for our customers to stay connected, but it is equally important for them to enjoy a safe, comfortable browsing environment.”

Keeping staff safe
Sheffield-based rail safety specialist, Zonegreen, is to supply its flagship technology to Metro operator, Nexus’, £8.4 million training facility, being constructed in South Shields. The firm has signed a contract with main contractors, Galliford Try, to install its Depot Personnel Protection System (DPPS) in the new state-of-the-art rail skills complex.

Nexus Tyne and Wear Metro Maintenance and Renewals Centre is being built on the site of the original South Shields station. The skills centre will include a two-road maintenance shed that is to be protected by Zonegreen’s system. DPPS will guarantee the safety of personnel by restricting vehicle movements, via the installation of Network Rail approved derailers. Its advanced interlocking technology, which is being applied to gantry gates, will also ensure high level areas cannot be accessed whilst the overhead line is live.