Soaring Safety: Drones and Detectors

Designed to respond to safety issues across the region, drones and detectors are being trialled across specific services, introducing small-scale technology to rail. As discussed in Monday's newsletter, the amount of funding set aside for digitalisation confirms its leading role in the future development of modern rail.

Just last week the BBC reported that UK trains are the ‘envy of Europe’, however, the pressure to meet Network Rail’s desired increase in services by 2021 requires yet further enhancement to the existing rail service that is already superior to other EU countries.

Capacity Concerns

The increasing usage of the rail system has presented worrying statistics with trains serving London to be 5.4% over their official capacity on average. A DfT spokesperson comments that “demand for rail travel has more than doubled since privatisation, to 1.7bn journeys last year”. This has urged progress in the sector such as new developments that are being rolled out in the form of weight detectors to highlight whether a seat is vacant.

Some services are desperately overcrowded due to delays in areas such as Manchester, Liverpool and Cumbria caused after the introduction of a new timetable in May. As Steve Chambers of the Campaign for Better Transport has noted the network is “over capacity, and despite a slight fall in passenger numbers, overcrowding has increased outside of London”.

Whilst this current issue is difficult to fulfil without major structural work and increased service frequency, less populated routes will benefit from the intelligent system developed by McLaren Applied Technologies as it hopes to address the issue of spare seats on trains going unused.

Developing Drones

Elsewhere the first drone survey on England’s south western route has been performed to combat track trespassers. The investigation took place near Bournemouth using a high-tech heat sensitive 4K camera which sent images of illegal activities to the British Transport Police.

The potential to use these drones up to a height of 120m allows detection of a large surface area with their heat sensitive feature allowing identification of potential damage to infrastructure.

Peter Atkins, Network Rail’s Incident Officer is particularly excited about this project as he stated, “I’m delighted to be operating the first-ever railway drone flight in the region.” He later outlined the benefits of improved performance and reliability as well as the opportunity to reduce the amount of manual engineering work.

One Small Step for Rail

On July 17, the Office of Rail & Road published its annual health and safety performance report which concluded technology and system pressure as their key challenges. These innovative devices act as a small step for rail towards their future expansion goals and prove that the integration of technology can be an effective strategy for change.

An exciting time for rail will continue to be celebrated in May with our CP6 Launch event when over 300 rail professionals will meet to discuss the funding available. Visit our website now for more information and the opportunity to book your table.

Published: 29th September 2018