A consortium led by Ricardo Rail is to develop the first installation of ‘Repoint’, a new ultra-high reliability railway point (switch) system designed by Loughborough University.
Repoint introduces the concept of using several actuators to operate the same points, meaning that in the event of a single failure the remaining actuators can continue to function safely. With this facility built into each machine, rail traffic can still pass and remedial maintenance can be scheduled without causing immediate disruption to rail services increasing reliability and capacity on the railway.
Repoint also applies a unique ‘lift, hop and drop’ mechanism that eliminates the friction experienced by the slide chairs used in traditional point machines, resulting in faster operation moving a switch in under half a second compared to four seconds for conventional designs.
The development of Repoint originates from a request by the industry’s independent body, the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), to explore ways to increase network capacity.
Points failures represent a disproportionately high proportion of track maintenance costs, as well as being a significant cause of service disruption. This was the impetus for Loughborough University’s Control Systems Group to research new approaches to operating switch machines, which led to the initial development of the Repoint system. The increased fault tolerance offered by Repoint is thus a potentially very attractive innovation to the global industry.
Having developed the concept with the long-term support of RSSB the next step is to move to full working prototype. An invitation to provide industrial development assistance was publicized for official tender (OJEU) in June 2016.
Ricardo Rail has assembled a consortium including Progress Rail, DEG Signal and MPEC Technology and will now assist with the next stage of design, build and trial of a Repoint switch.
“This is an important first step in helping to bring this unique technology to the global market,” commented Ricardo Rail senior commercial manager Shakeel Meharban. “Ricardo prides itself in its ‘one stop shop’ capability from expert advice through to niche production, and so we felt we were the perfect partner to support Loughborough University on such an innovative project. We are extremely proud to have this opportunity and look forward to a long and successful relationship with the team.”
“This is an incredibly exciting time for us,” added Sam Bemment, of Loughborough’s Control Systems Group and Repoint’s technical lead. “Until now, the technology has been developed solely in our laboratory with the long-term support of RSSB. Our ambition now is to have a prototype deployed in the ballast. By partnering with the right industrial expertise we can complete this step to a much higher standard. Signing this agreement with such a well-known and highly regarded organization is a significant milestone on the road to a successful network deployment, moving us closer to the step-change in performance that the industry tasked us with in 2010.”
Neil Webster, RSSB Innovation Programme Director, commented: “Our continued support for Repoint reinforces our belief in the technology and its potential to deliver real, tangible benefits to the future of the rail industry.”
The first full-scale Repoint is planned to be integrated with London Underground infrastructure in early 2018.
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