Two start-ups, both less than four months old, have won a share of a £300,000 Network Rail and Innovate UK fund to develop automated rail design tools.
The start-ups, Pean Technologies and Plume Rail were named as competition winners alongside contractor Costain and specialist software systems consultant Graffica.
Pean Technologies registered with Companies House in November last year, while Plume Rail has only been officially registered as a company since 18 February.
The competition, which was launched in November, looked for applicants to develop solutions for automated track layout design, overhead line electrification, traction power supply systems, and signalling systems.
Automated design enables engineers to automatically explore a wide design space and identify the best design options quickly and in a cost-effective manner.
Plume Rail won based on its automated traction power simulation and design software which will allow for the quicker assessment of the impact of changes on the network’s power system.
Plume Rail project director Robert Cahill said: “We aim to provide an integrated traction power modelling solution for scheme planners, using innovative cloud-based technology. This will allow for more efficient delivery of enhancement schemes for projects on the electrified network, and aid development of robust cost and programme estimates at early stages.”
Pean Technologies will develop a suite of tools that will generate and automatically adjust track layouts until they are clash-free and compliant with the user-defined criteria.
Pean Technologies lead developer Andy Wraight – who has previous experience in track layout design – said: “This funding will provide us with the tools to develop the next generation of track design processes.
“As a newly formed start-up aiming to develop a novel product for a niche industry, it could be difficult to acquire funding via conventional means, so we are thankful for Network Rail’s support and belief in the project.”
Network Rail project manager Atish Chauhan added: “Using automated design will help Network Rail produce better designs faster and support our long-term service planning by allowing better assumptions about future infrastructure and associated changes to services.”
The competition is the first to be run with Innovate UK, the government backed innovation network. At its launch, Network Rail research and development specialist Ben Ford described the rail operator as a “laggard in technology” and hoped this competition would go some way to rectify that.
Network Rail was recently given the green light for its £36bn funding plan, of which £245M has been set aside for research and development. It is hoped the new partnership with Innovate UK will create a new channel to make best use of available funding.
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