£9 million fund opens to improve UK railways

By - World Infrastructure Journal

£9 million fund opens to improve UK railways

A £9 million fund that aims to find innovative ideas to transform UK rail has opened for applications.

This part of the First of a Kind (FOAK) competition by the Department for Transport and Innovate UK which aims to make the rail network 'cleaner, greener and more passenger-friendly'. Organisations are invited to apply before the 10th March deadline when the fund will then be split between a number of different applications.

The FOAK has had four previous funding rounds which allocated £25 million to new rail ideas and projects. These included HydroFLEX, the first trialling of a new hydrogen train, safety inspection drones, heated platforms, and zero-emission low-noise rail freight. Dr Stuart Hillmansen, technical lead of HydroFLEX said "It is fantastic to see our early fundamental research on the application of fuel cells in the railway sector being implemented and delivering real benefits for today’s railway".

This comes amidst a difficult year of the rail industry which due to the Covid-19 pandemic saw services fall to a record low of four per cent capacity. Despite this, Rail Minister Chris Heaton Harris who opened the fifth round of funding applications today, said that efforts must still be made to drive the rail network forward.

"This country pioneered the railway, and that spirit of innovation and ingenuity has never been more vital as we look to build back better from this pandemic" he said. "Our railways will underpin this country’s economic recovery and help realise our ambitions of a carbon-neutral future. Through initiatives like the First of a Kind competition, we are investing today to build the railway of tomorrow".

Simon Edwards, Chief Business Officer, Innovate UK, similarly reiterated the potential of the competition. "A greener railway, easier for everyone, with a better experience for users is the aim of this competition. Delivered by Innovate UK on behalf of the DfT and through the Small Business Research Initiative, it seeks the best and brightest ideas.Innovative companies all over the UK have proved their mettle in previous rounds of this scheme. Now we call again for even more fresh thinking to help deliver a better and greener railway that delivers for passengers and freight users".

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