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Funding for innovative railways

Another round of funding has been released for a number of ideas which will help the UK’s rail network become more efficient, greener and cleaner.

Innovate UK has announced 24 winning projects, supported by DfT funding, in the third round of the First of a Kind (FOAK) competition, seeking innovative ideas that can be adapted to transform rail travel.

Projects will receive a share of up to £7.8M in government funding for use on the rail network.

Strengthening resilience of railway infrastructure and operations, enhancing rail freight services, and reducing environmental and noise impacts were the themes for this round. Each of the winning schemes will receive between £250,000 and £350,000.

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 to modernise our rail network over the next five years, ensuring people have the safe, frequent and punctual journeys they deserve.”

Among the successful projects is 4Silence’s plan to develop a noise-reducing wall that works by diffracting sound waves from passing trains upwards. This makes it as effective as a barrier three times its height.

Another scheme being supported is Amey VTOL’s development of a drone system that could carry out track inspections from the skies. This would avoid the need for people to set foot on railway infrastructure.

The University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research is also receiving funds for its plans to undertake the first mainline testing of a hydrogen-fuelled train in the UK.

Simon Edmonds, Deputy Executive Chair and Chief Business Officer, 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.”

The first round of First of a Kind was launched in 2017 and saw ten projects win a share of £3.5M to develop ideas to improve passenger experience and demonstrate tomorrow’s trains.

The second round focused on schemes aimed at cutting the carbon footprint on the UK’s railways and enhancing stations for passengers. This saw another ten projects offered a share of £3.5M.

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