Just six months after Network Rail’s bright ideas innovation portal was launched to encourage new solutions to rail industry issues, more than 200 submissions have been received.
Several ideas are already being put into practice across the network, while many others are being investigated in more detail.
One solution being implemented by Network Rail is a camera that can spot defects on the overhead rail wire 25ft above the operator’s head. The OLE cameras, developed with Kongsberg Maritime, can be operated without the need to turn off the power along the wires or close the line. This will mean a more efficient and accurate maintenance programme, fewer delays to rail services and millions of pounds saved in delay payments.
Another bright idea is helping to deliver savings of 90% against the cost of sleepers on the Thameslink project. Thameslink required a railway sleeper capable of housing a 53mm conductor rail as well as signalling and track cables. The original plan was to use a full depth sleeper with baseplates - 65mm deeper than adjacent sleepers - which would be expensive and difficult to install and maintain. The innovation portal brought forward a solution from Cemex that has seen a wider, shallower sleeper with cast-in housings produced. This alone is expected to save £4m by 2014.
Two solutions being investigated in more detail are acoustic curtains, providing quick and effective noise control to reduce the impact on nearby houses during maintenance, and safety fences that clip onto the rail during maintenance to provide a safe working environment while trains pass on nearby tracks.