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Top rail travel innovators get £3.6m government funding

Deniz Huseyin
15 February 2018

Ten innovations designed to enhance rail travel are to receive a total of £3.6m in government grants. The funding, announced today, has been awarded through the First of a Kind competition, run by Innovate UK, as part of the Department for Transport’s scheme to improve the passenger experience on rail.

The projects include:

  • A system that can alternate between three different seating configurations on train carriages depending on how busy a service is. 
  • A carriage design that can quickly switch from carrying passengers to carrying goods, by automatically folding and sliding doors along the carriage sides. 
  • In-seat technology that identifies individual passengers, allowing automated validation of their seat reservation/ticket status, reducing the need for train crew to undertake revenue protection activities.
  • A system that guides visually-impaired passengers through the station and to their seat, using 3D soundscape technology, indoor navigation and intelligent sensors. 
  • A system enabling disabled passengers to seek real-time assistance with their journey request in advance, at station and in-carriage, with staff nearby receiving the requests on their smartphones, which then automatically navigates them to the passenger. 
  • A system that guides rail passengers to available seats, in real-time. 
  • An augmented reality application that highlights, and embellishes, a journey’s landmarks. For example, the London to Edinburgh service could feature a “sea monster off the coast of Holy Island and a herd of Newcastle supporting TOON zebras running along the A1 near Newcastle”.
  • Sensors that monitor how people use trains. This data could be used to accurately assess and predict passenger flows and provide more space on trains. 

Rail Minister Jo Johnson said: “While we have introduced real-time platform information, taken big strides on safety and improved how we manage our railways to accommodate more services on existing tracks, the pace of change can sometimes be slower than we would like to see. The funding is part of a wider programme of activities to speed up the delivery of new ideas and high-value innovations, which can have a big impact on passengers’ journeys.”

Ian Meikle, Director of Infrastructure Systems at Innovate UK, said: “The UK railway is carrying more and more passengers, and they rightly demand improvements to their journeys. What we are announcing today are tangible innovations, which each in their own way will make train travel better.”

The grants will be awarded in March and real-life demonstrations of each of the innovations will take place on board trains during the year. Passengers will be able to observe the innovations and provide feedback. For more details on when and where demonstrations wll take place contact Innovate Uk at:

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