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Innovation drives light rail viability

By Martin Farrow

Revolutionary track technology looks set to make light rail an even more attractive option for cities looking to provide clean, reliable transport solutions.

A pioneering £3 million initiative led by UK Tram has led to the development of new systems with the potential to reduce the cost of new lines and extensions to existing networks.

Funded by Innovate UK and the Department for Transport, the Low Impact Light Rail Competition also aims to speed up the construction of tram infrastructure and minimise disruption during the work.

Of an initial 24 proposals put forward, seven have been selected to progress to the demonstrator phase and three will be put under the spotlight at a high-profile rail sector event next week.

James Hammett, Managing Director of UK Tram, explained: “While trams and other urban transit systems are undoubtedly popular with the travelling public, capital cost and the time taken to build the necessary infrastructure are often the biggest barriers to the introduction or expansion of light rail in our cities.

“The competition has led to some really ground-breaking solutions and we are delighted to be able to showcase some of the most promising at Rail Live 2019.”

The three projects on show at the event include Ultralite Track, developed by the Em-Track consortium, that enables tram and guided bus operation on the same track whether on or off-street and on central reservations.

Visitors to the event at the Quinton Rail Technology Centre, Warwickshire, can also see the Trackform Integrated Modular Light Rail Construction System submitted by Costain. It incorporates a trough-based modular construction system utilising new applications for existing precast technologies to maximise access for utility works.

Manufactured off-site, the Pre-Cast Advanced Track (PCAT) that’ll also be showcased at Quinton is another world first – using macro-synthetic fibre to reinforce precast concrete slab track structures. Suitable for both railways and metro systems, the track-form system allows track units to be removed for access to utilities.  Visitors to the event can see a practical demonstration of PCAT’s track replacement technology on site.

“The competition has uncovered a wealth of technical expertise and innovation as well as sector-wide determination to make it even easier to deliver the benefits of light rail to more communities across the UK,” Mr Hammett said.

“For any urban area looking at ways to cut congestion, improve air quality, drive investment or provide an efficient public transport network, the results look set to make light rail an even more viable and cost-effective solution,” he added.

Rail Live takes place on June 19 and 20 and is expected to attract around 6,000 visitors from across the industry.

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