Nicky champions innovation in the rail industry

Nicky Morgan, Chair of the Treasury Select Committee and former Secretary of State for Education, spent the morning at Loughborough University learning about Repoint  – innovative track switching technology that uses multi-channel redundancy to ensure the continuous running of a railway switch during a fault, without the need for immediate repair. The project was developed by Loughborough University with delivery partners and RIA members Ramboll and Progress Rail.

She was shown around by experts at the University, which is part of the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN), a new £92 million partnership between the rail industry and academia to spur innovation in the sector. The visit included a full-scale demonstration of Repoint technology designed to improve reliability, reduce maintenance costs, and increase network capacity. 

Nicky Morgan’s visit is part of the second year of the RIA Rail Fellowship Programme – a programme launched in 2018 to showcase the work of the UK rail supply chain by encouraging parliamentarians and influencers to gain hands-on experience in the industry. As the first RIA Rail Fellow of the Class of 2019, she joins the likes of Lilian Greenwood MP, Chair of the Transport Select Committee and Priti Patel MP, former Secretary of State for International Development.

Nicky Morgan MP said: "The UK’s rail industry is essential for boosting growth and productivity in the UK economy, so I am grateful to the Railway Industry Association and UKRRIN for giving me an opportunity to witness the rail sector in action in my own constituency. 

“Seeing how far Loughborough University has been able to develop the pioneering rail track switching technology was both insightful and encouraging. It is a superb example of the collaborative innovation needed to improve rail transport – of which the UK is at the forefront.”

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association said: “It was a pleasure to welcome Nicky Morgan to Loughborough University today. We are delighted that she has kick-started this year’s RIA Rail Fellowship Programme by becoming the first Fellow of the Class of 2019. Showcasing the value of the UK rail sector to MPs is so important and we are glad that today’s visit was successful in demonstrating the important role that the rail supply chain plays in providing skills, investment and jobs.” 

Professor Tracy Bhamra, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise, Loughborough University, said: Repoint epitomises how we collaborate to deliver innovative solutions with the potential for far-reaching economic and societal benefit. With the support of the RSSB (Rail Safety and Standards Board) and the Government, the technology has been demonstrated in a working environment – significantly beyond where universities normally work. The Repoint team is now engaging with commercial partners to ensure deployment of the technology on the UK and international rail networks.”

Will Palmer, Design Manager for Rail Systems at Ramboll said“We believe Repoint is the future of point machines because it provides huge advantages in availability due to fault tolerant engineering principles. It has been exciting to see this new capacity-enhancing rail technology progress from lab tests to a full-scale demonstration. Ramboll produced the Signalling Design Specification, designed the location case, and supported all the design aspects of installation, testing and commissioning.”

The RIA Rail Fellowship Programme is being run by RIA, the representative body for UK-based suppliers to the UK and world-wide railways. RIA has more than 270 member companies and works to promote the importance of the rail system to UK plc, to help export UK expertise around the globe, and to share best practice and innovation across the industry.

The rail sector is of crucial importance to the UK economy, contributing £36 billion in economic growth and £11 billion in tax revenue each year, as well as employing 600,000 people—more than the workforce of Birmingham. It is also a growing industry with the number of rail journeys expected to double over the next 25 years and freight set to grow significantly too.