Train derailments and delays could be cut after trial of track fault detection system

Train derailments and delays could be cut after trial of track fault detection system

A data gathering system is being trialled which could make the UK’s rail network safer, reducing costs and delays, by identifying derailment-causing track geometry faults sooner.

After a successful feasibility study as part of Project ‘Automated Rail Geospatial Observation System’, Thales was awarded £500,000 from the Geospatial Commission via Innovate UK to trial equipment intended to detect and locate potential track faults.

Guilherme Beirao, who leads Thales’s technical delivery for the project, said:
“This is an opportunity to demonstrate an innovative use of technology with the aim of making our rail network safer and more efficient. That would be a big win for everyone involved in railways; Network Rail, the TOCs and passengers.”

The system uses Thales’s Robust Train Positioning System, originally designed to support train operations. RTPS takes data from a number of varied train-borne sensors and track map data, using an algorithm to combine this data to pinpoint its position on the network.

Next month the system will be fitted to an in-service GWR Class 150 cab and over the next five months data from RTPS, along with pitch, yaw and roll measurements from the sensors, will be transmitted to Thales’s data centre. There, it will be analysed, and assessment algorithms developed along with warning thresholds, to alert operators to track geometry faults.

Thales is working with York-based rail technology pioneer, Incremental, which is developing a user interface and threshold definition for the system, allowing Network Rail to define baselines and adjust warning threshold levels. This will also allow data collected from the system to be directly presented to track maintenance engineers and alert them of any abnormalities or developing faults.

Network Rail has an obligation to survey its track. However, its specialist measuring trains are tied to specific schedules, and while busy lines are regularly surveyed, those carrying fewer services, typically for freight, are checked less often. Freight trains account for more than half of UK derailments which have serious consequences, such as days of rail service disruption.

Fitting a survey system to even one in ten in-service trains would allow lines to be monitored more regularly. This would give early warning of potential problems which could be repaired before a derailment occurred or emergency speed restrictions had to be imposed, for which Network Rail has to compensate TOCs. Such a system could also verify finished repairs, allowing normal services to resume more quickly.

Daniel Lee-Burnsall, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Incremental, says:
“We’re delighted to be working alongside Thales on this fantastic project. Creating solutions for the railway that reduce delays and disruption to passengers is at the core of everything we do, and we’re committed to making the railway better for everyone.

“As an SME in the rail industry, it really is exciting to collaborate with large-scale businesses such as Thales. We’re a tried and tested partnership and we’re really looking forward to making a difference to the industry, once again, with this latest project.”

“Incremental works in a very agile way, exactly how our R&D projects are managed,” said Guilherme. “We enjoy working with the team, who are passionate and proactive and we’re collaborating on a number of other projects as well.”

Thales will present its findings to Network Rail, Innovate UK and the Geospatial Commission in a series of workshops in the new year.

OLErt Case Study: Stagger Exceedance

OLErt Case Study: Stagger Exceedance

A real issue for the rail industry, stagger exceedance (which is the longitudinal alignment of overhead lines) occurs when overhead wires run outside the normal contact area of the pantograph, increasing wear and tear on the wire. 

Should this continue to move towards the outside (or is blown there by the wind), there is an increased risk of dewirement from the pantograph ‘hooking over’ the overhead line and impacting rail services. Innovation and technology comes to the fore when resolving such issues, which we will explore further in this case study.


The overhead line near Hanwell delivers electricity for the busy rail network transporting trains from London out towards Reading, a key commuter route on Great Western Railway’s (GWR’s) network. The Network Rail Mentor system (NR’s overhead line test train) had run in the area the week before and detected several potential faults. The wire was found to be exceeding stagger, which would only worsen if left unattended and could potentially result in huge disruption and significant delays.

Harnessing OLErt

OLErt (Overhead Line Equipment in real-time) aims to provide an innovative, low-cost technology solution that will dramatically reduce the incidence of failures to electrified infrastructure and fleets through continuous and dynamic computer vision monitoring and alerting on service trains.

A tried and tested system, OLErt has been adopted across the industry to tackle a wide range of issues, including the stagger incident at Hanwell. Created with efficiency in mind, the OLErt system was deployed on the same route immediately following the receipt of the Mentor’s data regarding the incident that occurred at Hanwell. Within one week, the OLErt system was able to use its on-train forward facing camera, combined with its location tracking device to establish the faults and confirm the actions that were needed to be taken to rectify the problem, in advance of any incidents occurring.

Thanks to OLErt’s ground-breaking GPS capabilities, the exact location of the exceedance was easily identified, enabling a maintenance team to be deployed to the specific point of fault. This not only meant that rectifying the fault was easy to locate and therefore fix, but that the risk of a complete dewirement was avoided.

The value of OLErt

In this case, the deployment of OLErt allowed follow up monitoring of the potential issue straight away, following the running of Mentor on the route. As NR’s Mentor train only runs once every year, the use of OLErt on service trains operating the route meant that further monitoring of the situation could be completed straightaway. Not only does this allow for immediate confirmation of faults, but thanks to OLErt’s in-built GPS capabilities, more precise data could be supplied to the maintenance to team to rectify the fault much more efficiently and any potential further impacts across the route, were averted.

Northern and Incremental care for Unwell Passengers with new app

Northern is trialling a new innovative app that will help customers get speedier care if they become ill on board any of the rail operators’ trains.  

Unwell Passengers App

The Unwell Passenger app, developed by York-based rail technology specialists, Incremental Solutions, gives step-by-step instructions to support staff on trains to help passengers who become ill or are injured.  

Currently in the first phase of testing, the app uses mobile technology (GSM) for communication, satellite technology for position accuracy and a digital interface which allows colleagues, control teams and operational staff to simultaneously liaise with each other and if required, the emergency services. 

Tricia Williams, Chief Operating Officer at Northern, said: “When a customer is unwell on one of our trains, the on-board member of staff currently has to remember, in a stressful situation, all the policies and procedures that relate to helping the customer, as well as coordinate with colleagues in control and emergency services.  

“The app will mean improved management of incidents on board trains as customers who become unwell can be transported more quickly to a suitable location to receive the best care.  

“Other customers also benefit from issues being resolved more quickly, meaning journeys will be back on track in less time.” 

Daniel Lee-Bursnall, Co-Founder and Commercial Director at Incremental Solutions, added: “Technology gives us so many opportunities to improve the customer experience on our rail networks, and in this instance, can really help people with immediate and unexpected needs. By digitising the alert and subsequent care process for unwell passengers, we can become much more effective and proactive too. 

The trial was funded by Innovate UK and will be developed further to provide even more benefits for Northern customers 

A second phase will look at automating the app further – including tracking which train the user is on, as well as the exact location of the train on Northern’s network which will make it easier for emergency services to attend to a passenger. Additionally, it will be integrated with the train’s communications – meaning the customer information system can updated with delays or other messages.  

To see how we transform communications to benefit the customer experience, see our MApps solution here.

Visit us at the Rail Innovation Exhibition, 2021

Come and find us, in a virtual sense, at this year’s Rail Innovation Exhibition. which runs from 9th-12th February.

This event will be a showcase of the best in rail innovation brought to you by Innovate UK, KTN, the Department for Transport (DfT), and the Railway Industry Association (RIA), in partnership with UKRRIN and Network Rail. It’s bringing together a fantastic line-up to showcase some of the most exciting innovations and projects the rail sector has to offer.  Including, of course, Incremental Solutions.

Our ‘stand’ will be looked after by different members of the Incremental team who’ll be talking about what we do, how it benefits the rail user and with some particular focusses on some of our products, such as overhead line Equipment monitoring solution OLErt .

Register for the event on the organiser’s website here.

Top Tech Awards rate Incremental ‘Highly Commended’

The Top Tech report, produced by UK law firm Mills & Reeve, celebrate and recognise the innovative and pioneering work that is happening in Yorkshire and the North West. Technology business across both regions are developing products and services that establish themselves as leaders in their field and boost the vibrant economy in the North. 

Mills & Reeve developed the Top Tech series bringing together like-minded businesses from across the regions to celebrate the ground-breaking technology being developed on your doorstep and give it the recognition it deserves.

In the latest report, Incremental were ‘Highly Commended’, after being reviewed under categories such as ‘Technical Innovation’, ‘Outstanding Client Service’ and ‘Culture and Workforce’.

For more information on the Top Tech report, visit the Mills & Reeve website here.

Incremental’s growth continues with senior level hires.

Gareth Biggins and Aurelie Butin

Incremental Solutions, the York-based smart transport technology provider, has announced two new senior-level appointments in the roles of Head of Product and Innovation Business Development Manager.

Both recruits come from within the rail industry and the appointments reflect Incremental’s growing list of rail sector clients across the UK and a continued growth trajectory of the organisation.

Aurelie Butin previously held roles at Rail Europe, Loco2, SNCF and Keolis and brings with her over a decade of industry knowledge and takes the newly formed role of Head of Product. The role will essentially help define Incremental’s product-USP and bridge the company’s offering between customers, business teams and delivery teams.

Gareth Biggins held roles with Arriva UK Trains, London Overground Rail Operations Ltd and MTR . He takes a new role of Innovation Business Development Manager. Gareth’s role at Incremental is to work with internal teams, clients, and partners to identify and secure new business opportunities for innovation, whether enhancements to existing products or the development of new solutions that address a specific customer need.

Commenting on her appointment, Aurelie says;

“It’s a truly exciting role which I’m relishing. I’m convinced that a product driven strategy associated with an agile delivery is the key to creating product differentiation, customer satisfaction and ultimately drive success. The Incremental product is disrupting the rail industry and that will have tremendous impacts of the everyday life of thousands of passengers.”  

Gareth adds;

Innovation will be a key factor in modernising the rail industry, and it’s agile organisations like Incremental which I believe will lead the charge. I’m looking forward to helping shape new ideas and opportunities so that they deliver tangible benefits to customers and transport users.”

The two appointments come during notably challenging times for the rail industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however Incremental are optimistic that the public and the business sector will soon return to this transport method.

Daniel Lee-Bursnall, Commercial Director and co-Founder, concludes;

We firmly believe that rail is the most sus­tainable mode of transport for travelling on short to medium distances and the outcome of what we do is a rail network which is managed in a much more effective and data-informed way leading to improvements in safety, timetable manage­ment, incident response time and ultimately – greater passenger satisfaction.

The appointment of Aurelie and Gareth, as well as other new team members, brings core industry experience to Incremental and helps us to continue to grow and add to these positive outcomes.”

Incremental are “one to watch”.

Although we work across the breadth of the UK, it’s always great to get acknowledgement from our local business sector.

The York Press business awards annually recognise and celebrate the city’s business sector’s ingenuity and successes. Released during York’s annual Business Week, the awards are published by The Press in conjunction with Make It York and York St. John University.

In the most recent awards, Incremental Solutions have been recognised in the “Ones to watch” category, with mentions of our successes within the rail industry.

It’s a pleasure to be there, alongside organisations such as Netsells and Biovale.

Have a read about us, and what else is going on in York’s business sector: here.

Incremental bolsters senior management team

Incremental Solutions have strengthened their senior management team with the appointment of Will Day as Finance Director.

Incremental have enjoyed great success and growth over recent years, winning many industry awards for their rail monitoring products, becoming a Northern Powerhouse member and also receiving the Queen’s Award for Enterprise – Innovation.

Will, who brings vast experience in funding strategies and over 15 years in the rail industry, has worked for organisations such as Deloitte, Arriva and Porterbrook. His role at Incremental is to focus on the processes and systems of the business to support the growth potential and maximise on progress and success so far.

Daniel Lee-Bursnall, founder and Commercial Director at Incremental Solutions said;
“We’re pleased to be adding Will’s experience and insight to our growing team as we look to build on an incredible 2019. The industry is changing, and technology is playing an ever-increasing role in monitoring all aspects of its performance.”

Will Day, Finance Director;
“There’s incredible opportunity at Incremental Solutions and I’m thrilled to be part of the team. I’m relishing working for such an agile and innovative organisation and looking forward to seeing how we can grow and strengthen our position in this industry”.

Putting Passengers First Award with Network Rail

At the end of November, Network Rail held their 3rd annual Rail Engineering & Asset Management National Conference, with the theme of “Delivering a Better Railway for our Customers”.

We’re really pleased that our OLErt solution was awarded the ‘Putting Passengers First’ award – beating off some incredible competition. It’s additionally important to us as this was judged by Network Rail’s senior technical community from across the UK.

The caps of a great year of recognition for OLErt which has won industry awards from RIA in November and the Rail Partnership awards earlier in June. Additionally, the innovative solution featured in our ‘Rail Matters’ programme and a feature in August’s edition of Rail Engineer.

We must also give thanks to all the businesses and organisations who are part of this innovation – Network Rail, LNW, GWR, Oxford University, Icomera – as well as Innovate UK and DfT innovation funds too.

Network Rail CEO Andrew Haines alongside Jon Shaw, Chief Engineer, presented the awards in the Great Hall at Birmingham University.

Royal representative presents Incremental with Queen’s Award

Her Majesty the Queen’s representative, The Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Mrs Jo Ropner, attended a special ceremony in November to present Incremental Solutions with their Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

Daniel Lee-Bursnall (l), The Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Mrs Jo Ropner, and Lewis Gill (r).

Announced in April of this year, the Queen’s Award for Enterprise was awarded to 200 organisations in the UK, with Incremental Solutions being recognised for their innovative work in the rail sector, where their technology is deployed across the UK rail network helping to prevent incidents and make the network operate more efficiently.

As The Queen’s formal representative, Mrs Ropner was joined by representatives from business-growth bodies InnovateUK and Make it York, the Lord Mayor of York, Councillor Janet Looker – as well as many of Incremental Solutions’ partners and clients – such as Network Rail and GWR.

Sean Bullick, Managing Director of Make It York, said:

“I’d like to congratulate Incremental Solutions on becoming a recipient of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. Their innovative work in transport safety and vision for an efficient transport network fit for the 21st century is of great importance to both the industry, and the City of York. It’s great to see them receiving recognition for their achievements in this field.”

Daniel Lee-Bursnall, founder and Commercial Director at Incremental Solutions added;

“The amount of people we’ve invited to this award ceremony is representative of not only how many people have played their part in enabling our systems to benefit the rail network, but also to the importance of the future development and safety of our rail infrastructure. We’re so proud and feel it’s a fantastic achievement and honor to be representing not only the North, but also all innovators who are improving the things we often take for granted.”

The event took place in York where Incremental Solutions are based – and is also a city of rich rail-related heritage. Even more fittingly, the ceremony celebrating the future of the rail network was held at the National Railway Museum, which of course celebrates it’s past.