NCC goes trackside at Rail Live! 2014

A team from the NCC donned full fluorescent PPE gear and joined thousands of rail people at Long Marston for Rail Live! 2014 earlier this month. This outdoor event, ran by RailAlliance, showcased innovative technologies in an outdoor location based around a railway test track. This enabled live and static demonstrations to several thousand delegates. 

The NCC stand, and a composite rail platform deck exhibit from local Bristol-based firm Polydeck, formed part of the FutureRailway exhibition area, strategically placed at the entrance to the show, and next to the popular 1970s ice-cream van.

Other composite materials featured strongly in the FutureRailway area too, with two thermoplastic sleepers (one from Sicut which utilises some composite industry fibre waste, and one from Revaluetech which uses low grade domestic mixed plastic waste and auto-crusher residues) and trackside gantry and access systems.

An interesting quad lift autonomous UAV flying wing for line inspections from VTOL Technologies attracted the attention of Transport Minister R.Hon Patrick Mcloughlin MP on his rapid walk through. Within the FutureRailway area were also the winners of the recent 'Aesthetic Overhead Line Structures' competition.

Above: The Minister for Transport, the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin, MP visiting the stand.

Many of these innovative designs for supporting overhead electrification featured use of composite materials.

The event had a huge footfall, mainly from contractors and suppliers engaged in trackside activity, repair installation and maintenance, rather than new rolling stock or new build infrastructure. Many comments were expressed about the lightweight of the articles demonstrated, potential impact on possession times and reduced access requirements for lift gear. A multitude of potential uses of composite materials in railway infrastructure were identified and discussed during the event, including gantries, modular bridges, track beds, railway sleepers, platforms and tunnel linings.

Both the event and network dinner gave the NCC a chance to put the case for composites innovation in front of senior decision makers in the rail industry, government agencies, and key supply chain. There is strong appetite for change in procurement models, and for codes and standards barriers to be reassessed where they inhibit innovation. 

The NCC is thus actively engaged with the major stakeholders in the rail industry to find ways to break down barriers for new product introductions, especially for composites, which offer lightweight, non-conductive, low maintenance and multi-functionality to many rail related products. If you have composite products in development suited to the rail sector or already supply the sector but are finding barriers to uptake, please get in touch with to find out about potential funding and support from the NCC.

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