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Research and Innovation Quarterly Update - October 2017

Luisa Moisiom R&D Programme Director

Welcome to our latest R&I quarterly update which showcases projects from across our portfolios, ranging from early feasibility studies to demonstrators.

Improving the experience of existing passengers, and attracting new ones, is essential for the survival of our industry, particularly given the fierce competition from, and progress made by, other modes of transport. There is a strong case for each train operator to innovate in this space, and cross-industry R&I can inform, support, and in some cases co-fund passenger-focused initiatives, as many of the featured pieces here demonstrate.

One of the success stories in this issue shows research and development in action, making train journeys more comfortable thanks to overcrowding information technology.

This issue also includes a range of solutions ready for industry to take forward. At one end of the spectrum, there is a full-scale design to deliver more seating capacity on commuter trains looking for an operator to support an in-service pilot. On the other end, an interactive game, developed by Aston University and used by Chiltern to enhance the quality of customer service during disruptions is now ready and easily adapted for wider use.

Work currently in progress includes trialling super high-speed connectivity and looking at the future of passenger demand. We have launched the Rail Accessibility Competition to develop solutions that make a difference to the lives of disabled passengers, including those with less visible impairments. We are also developing guidance on making rail services more accessible, particularly to passengers with cognitive impairments and hidden disabilities.

Please get in touch to discuss how you can use the findings and solutions we have developed, get involved in work underway, and share your challenges with us.

I hope you will find this quarterly update of interest and I look forward hearing from you.

Luisa Moisio, R&D Programme Director

Research and innovation in action

Passengers can benefit from a more punctual service and a more comfortable journey now that we have this new information. It’s rewarding to be able to direct passengers to quieter carriages and help ensure they have an enjoyable commuting experience.

Ashley Nwokorie, Station Assistant, Arriva Rail London 

​Quicker and better deployment of remote condition monitoring

Remote conditioning monitoring boasts operational reliability and reduces costs but its deployment can be costly and time consuming. This is why the Cross-Industry Remote Conditioning Monitoring (RCM) Group and RSSB are supporting the organisations working on the Elizabeth Line in London to speed up and reduce the cost of deploying and integrating RCM technology. This support is using outcomes from research, including four practical tools such as a business case module and guidance on data architecture.

These resources, originally created to facilitate cross-industry RCM deployment, are also proving useful for RCM initiatives rolled out within individual organisations. For example, Arriva Cross Country has used some of them when fitting their trains with RCM equipment as part of their wider work to boost performance and reliability.

Aeroliner3000 wins international design award


Passengers can expect easier and more comfortable journeys on the London Overground following the introduction of new technology that lets platform staff direct passengers to less crowded parts of the train.

The innovation relies on software installed on Arriva Rail London’s fleet of 57 Class 378 trains which transmits information on how busy each carriage is directly to the station teams in real time, enabling platform staff to direct passengers to board less busy parts of the train.


The project, called Orinoco 2, was funded as one of the winners in the Train Operator Competition 2015. The annual competition provides funding for solutions which improve the travel experience for passengers.

To know more about Arriva’s implementation of this technology, please contact:


Arriva Rail overcrowding technology now in use

Joint research in partnership with the University of Huddersfield has discovered a new approach to wheelset maintenance which can reduce costs by up to 4.7%. The research found that by turning the wheels with a thinner flange on the last turning cycle, a process now termed Economic Tyre Turning (ETT), cost savings can be achieved whilst not adversely affecting safety or ride quality.

Virgin Trains and Alstom have now successfully trialled ETT on Class 444 and Class 390 trains. A guidance document has been produced showing how it can be implemented for a range of profiles and provides train operators with information on how to construct thin flange wheel profiles on modern wheel lathes.

Since I was presented with the benefits of Economic Tyre Turning I have engaged with colleagues at Alstom to undertake a trial operation of this profile. Throughout the trial, I always found the research team highly competent, professional and supportive. I am also delighted to see that the work has now been incorporated in the latest Draft Railway Group Standard (GM/RT2766).

Andrew James, Engineering Manager, Virgin Trains

Ready for industry use

Extensive stakeholder consultation to identify end-user requirements and a ‘whole industry’ focus set this new safety critical communications training programme apart from its predecessors. The bite-sized, accessible training modules and accompanying communications manual will provide a valuable resource for all staff for whom safety critical communications is part of their role.

Emma Lowe, Head of Competence, Network Rail

I’ve been both a player as well as a facilitator of the game and I think it’s a fantastic initiative. It helps create inter-department relationships, promotes sharing mutually beneficial ideas across Chiltern and really gets everyone working as a customer-focused team through very real scenarios.

Mike Gulliver Booking Office, Customer Services, Chiltern Railways 

Intelligent software to get more value out of remote condition monitoring

Humaware’s automatic alert detection software has been validated by Network Rail.

The intelligent software sets itself apart by using multiple traits and patterns in the data to recognise defects on the track creating more accurate interpretation of data when compared to traditional systems that use fixed thresholds to make decisions.

The Humaware advanced system provides a high probability of detection with a very low false alarm rate - making detection of defects accurate, timely and dependable. By allowing the earliest possible detection of defects organisations can optimise maintenance interventions, which delivers greater reliability at lower costs.

The tool is flexible and can easily be deployed to new or existing remote conditioning monitoring systems of any type. It can also be deployed without changing the monitoring infrastructure.

Next steps:

Follow-on tools are being developed by Humaware including a maintenance scheduler for planning maintenance intervention based on risk. For further details, contact Ken Pipe, Managing Director, Humaware, email:

New safety critical communications training

Ineffective safety critical communications have been identified as a contributory factor in 21% of a recent sample of 235 GB rail incidents. This is why new training resources have been designed and are now available for all operators.

The communications manual, new eLearning case studies and briefing bites are tailored to help upskill drivers, signallers, depot workers and frontline staff so they can handle safety critical conversations more effectively.

Already being used by Network Rail as part of its national training programme, several operating companies are due to adopt these training materials shortly. RSSB has also defined a national minimum standard for safety critical communications.

Next steps:

Passenger and freight operating companies, infrastructure managers and maintenance companies can immediately use these materials to upskill all frontline staff. The Communication Review Groups will be asked to monitor the quality of communications and subsequently report at both the route and national level in 6 months. In addition, the training programme will be promoted through Operations Risk and Mitigation Groups and local Safety Groups.

Innovative seat design for commuter trains ready for use

To help tackle the issue of crowding on trains, PriestmanGoode have developed a unique, flexible design to maximise seating space and the comfort of passengers.

The design, named Horizon and funded by RSSB’s Tomorrow’s Train Design Today programme, allows between 20-30% more seats per carriage (based on a typical commuter train). It also increases standing space for passengers sitting in a more upright position. The seats are staggered, providing passengers with more shoulder space and increasing their sense of personal space

Next steps:

PriestmanGoode is currently seeking a customer to undertake an in-service pilot. A full-scale demonstrator model is available to explore how it can help reduce capacity issues. To find out more, contact Kirsty Dias, Director, PriestmanGoode, email:  

Unlocking new freight routes and innovative wagon design

Research has shown that the significant majority of freight wagons conform to Lower Sector Vehicle Gauge, unlocking the potential for freight flows on new routes. It also provides for additional diversionary routes in times of disruption and engineering work.

This research has also developed guidance on the gauging characteristics of bogies/ suspensions which helps remove barriers to introducing new and innovative wagon designs.

These findings improve the competitiveness of rail freight on the GB railway.

Next steps:

Freight companies can use these findings to improve and possibly expand their services to clients via new routes. Freight companies and wagon designers also have a clearer path to use new bogie designs.

Passenger focused solutions

Through the TOC 15 innovation competition, Chiltern Railways and Aston University teamed up to tackle rail service disruptions by developing a game-based training aid. The interactive board game uses real data and information from previous disruptions as an instrument to stimulate creative group-based thinking. It requires staff with different skills and experiences to work together to improve customer experiences during a disruption.

Chiltern staff who have used the game feel more confident dealing with the public and assisting customers during a disruption, are more aware of information sources and better able to interpret incoming information. To date, over two hundred improvement suggestions have been collated from just eight workshops - compared to approximately thirty in the original process.

Next steps:

Arriva is expanding its use to develop better customer service. The game can be adapted for any train operating company using their network, incident types and real data. Aston University would like to hear from other interested train operating companies, for further information please contact:

In progress

High-speed connectivity trial

Four of ScotRail’s Class 170 fleet operating between Glasgow and Edinburgh have been fitted with the fastest in-train Wi-Fi service in the world, as part of a collaboration to enhance customer experience, funded by RSSB and Innovate UK.

Led by Cisco CREATE, the company’s collaborative research and emerging technologies division, project SWIFT highlights how high-speed in-carriage connectivity can improve passenger experience and help train operators provide better and more profitable services.

The 6 months project utilises existing trackside fibre to backhaul data from trackside masts, with a session handover between masts as low as 2 milliseconds, allowing ScotRail’s fleet users to experience internet speeds in excess of 300 Mbps.

Get involved

Once the trial is complete, the consortium believes the passenger benefits will be clear, and will be seeking train operating companies to implement the hardware and take advantage of the technology. Contact:

Influencing passenger demand

How are the factors that affect passengers’ travel choices changing and how can the industry use this knowledge to make GB rail more attractive and sustainable?

RSSB has initiated new research to investigate how economic, technological and working practice changes are influencing our society. The project will develop insights to support rail operating companies and policy makers to better understand and influence passenger demand. The project aims to improve industry understanding of market segmentation, develop indicators to track and measure the societal changes relevant to GB rail, and support the industry in adapting its offering and become more attractive to passengers.

Get involved

Find out more and contribute to this project, please contact

Accessibility for all beyond step free access

Up to 20 per cent of the population has some form of disability and, with an ageing population, this is expected to increase in the future. Investment in step-free access is valuable but, with only 8 per cent of disabled people using a wheelchair, new thinking, methods and approaches are needed.

This research will develop guidance on making railways more accessible to everyone, regardless of any disability they may have. It will also develop a business case approach to enable prioritisation and targeted investment aimed at improving accessibility.

Get involved

Find out more and contribute to this project, please contact:

Switches and crossings: new ultrasonic detection system

Jointly funded by RSSB and Network Rail, the detection and monitoring system is based on existing technology used for the long-range testing of pipelines. The prototype incorporates a specially designed sensor to generate ‘low frequency’ ultrasonic waves, just above the audible range, which is capable of detecting and locating flaws and crack growth in cast manganese crossings. It can penetrate complex structures so that flaws, such as corrosion and fatigue cracks, can be detected many metres from the location of the sensor.

Its innovation lies in its ability to monitor the whole length of the crossing with a limited number of sensors permanently mounted on the underside of the adjacent rails. Repeated measurements over time allow degradation to be detected.

This approach offers significant advantages over conventional ultrasonic testing meaning the condition of the whole crossing can be monitored, including the inaccessible underside of the rails.

Get involved

I am delighted to launch this competition which will help us make our railways accessible to everyone, whether they have a physical disability or one which is less visible. This is something I personally feel very strongly about and I am determined to remove the barriers for millions with a disability, giving them the right to travel independently and with confidence.

Paul Maynard, Rail Minister


Big data to improve network performance

We are launching a call for research worth £500k to improve service reliability and punctuality by using novel approaches to extract useful information from the substantive data that the rail industry collects. The research competition is open to academic-led consortia working with industry partners.

Get involved

To find out more go to Or join us at the information and networking day on 31 October in London contact to find out more.

TOC 17 Competition launch

The RSSB TOC 17 Competition is due to launch in November 2017. The aim of the competition is to encourage and promote collaboration within the rail industry to solve rail challenges. This year the focus will be on improving operational performance.

Get involved

More information will be available from the end of October 2017. To find out more go to:

Competition to boost accessibility

A competition to improve accessibility on the railway for disabled passengers and those with less visible impairments was launched in September by the Department for Transport and RSSB.

The competition focuses on two themes. Firstly, innovative solutions for improving physical access to and at stations, which might include improved access to facilities contained within the station or ensuring spaces within stations better accommodate the needs of disabled people. And secondly, novel approaches to improving access to rail for people with less visible impairments such as mental health issues, spinal injuries or people with sensory and cognitive impairments. The closing date for entries is 30 November 2017.

The competition is open to any organisations or individuals and is expected to provide grant funding to the winners ranging from £25k to £150k to develop their ideas.

Get involved

To find out more and to request an application pack go to:

Suggest research

The research programme is driven by the rail industry’s needs. We receive and review hundreds of ideas each year. New research ideas are always welcome. Drop us an email and we will be in touch to discuss your research needs and ideas further.

Request a knowledge search

Do you want to know if research has been done, or knowledge already exists? The Knowledge Services, include horizon scanning activities, support the R&D programme and carry out knowledge searches for RSSB members.



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