Supporting innovation in rail infrastructure

Rail engineering and infrastructure consultancy ECSL Ltd, has secured funded technical support and expertise from our Innovate 4 Rail programme. This is enabling the company to continue a research project, which is advancing the development of Fibre Reinforced Polymer (FRP) footbridges over railways.

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The Innovate 4 Rail project offers a range of funded support to Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire SMEs, with the intention of stimulating innovation and driving productivity in the rail sector.

ECSL successfully applied to the programme and has won over 160 hours of University support for its research and innovation project. The aim of the project is to investigate the potential of producing a novel, fully composite truss bridge made of Fibre Reinforced Polymer (FRP), which could replace the conventional steel and concrete pedestrian bridges used over railways. ECSL already has interest from clients in the UK and India.

FRP bridges are relatively new and offer several benefits over steel and concrete ones. They are much lighter but just as strong, providing de-carbonisation benefits during manufacture and delivery. FRP bridges are also more resistant to corrosion so require less maintenance, which can significantly reduce whole-life costs. However, developing suitable joining techniques for FRP components remains a challenge, so the latest phase of ECSL’s research will focus on this aspect.

“I feel very fortunate that we’ve been awarded this funded support to progress the development of FRP bridges, which I see as integral to the UK’s de-carbonisation plans. The University of Derby is providing us with valuable expertise and testing equipment, and they are a crucial partner in this innovation.

As a specialist in historic bridges, I feel like we are very much walking the same path of trial and error and research and development as those engineers who first developed wrought iron bridges. It is exciting to find out just how far we can push this technology.”

— Dr Dave Gent, Head of Bridges and Structures at ECSL.

University researchers are now analysing and testing a range of glass fibre reinforced polymer (GFRP) joints designed for the bridge. They will carry out several investigations, including stress analysis of the joints using Finite Element Analysis, and experimental testing including failure mode analysis. They will then analyse the results and write a report with recommendations for ECSL, which should help improve the GFRP joint properties and fabrication technique. 

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Get support for your rail innovations

Are you working on an innovation for the rail sector? You too could be eligible for funded support through the Innovate 4 Rail project.

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