Ultra Light Rail Partners Ltd wins second Innovate UK grant

09 Nov 2020

Published in: Member News

Ultra Light Rail Partners Ltd wins second Innovate UK grant

Ultra Light Rail Partners Ltd wins second Innovate UK grant to design 120-person biomethane-powered railcar   

Ultra Light Rail Partners is delighted to announce it has been awarded its second prestigious Innovate UK grant as the company continues to develop new options for sustainable, affordable biomethane-powered mass transit.

The funding has been awarded as part of first round funding from the Sustainable Innovation Fund which is funding 1,103 projects, totalling over £130 million in support across the UK.

Having launched the UK’s first biomethane-powered railcar at Motorail’s Long Marston test facility in July 2020, thanks to a fully-funded £350k grant from Innovate UK, this project aims to develop a feasibility study and design for a larger railcar capable of carrying 120 passengers in Covid-secure travel conditions.

The ‘BioUltra’ railcar is intended for use on existing rail lines where turn-up-and-go shuttle services can be offered. It is also targeting reopened rail lines following the government’s programme aimed at reversing the Beeching rail closures through a £500 million fund intended to reconnect towns across the country.

Examples include – extending the existing Stourbridge Shuttle service from Stourbridge town up to Brierley Hill, or providing a turn-up-and-go shuttle service between Great Malvern and the new Worcestershire Parkway station.

In her capacity as Chairman of Ultra Light Rail Partners Ltd, Beverley Nielsen was thrilled to appoint local specialist engineering design firm, Invizio Product Design, headed by Paddy Fawcett based on the Malvern Hills Science Park, to lead the design work required for the feasibility study.

Other companies involved in the Project BioUltra collaborative feasibility study include Biomethane Ltd, Organic Power, Trampower Ltd, Sustraco Ltd, and Premetro Operations Ltd. Paddy Fawcett and his team at Invizio bring a wealth of experience to the BioUltra project.

As an award-winning Industrial Designer and Engineer, with experience at Philips Design, Paddy was also previously Head of Product Design at QinetiQ where he led the engineering design for most of their high profile products, before later becoming Strategic Product Manager at General Dynamics.

In light of ongoing pandemic and health challenges, the BioUltra railcar will include a range of Covid-19 resilient passenger experience features including ultraviolet lighting, copper fixtures on high volume touchpoints, internal plastic shielding and filtered external-internal airflows.

Speaking about the successful projects awarded as part of the Sustainable Innovation Fund, Innovate UK Executive Chair Dr Ian Campbell said: “In these difficult times we have seen the best of British business innovation. The pandemic is not just a health emergency but one that impacts society and the economy.

“Project BioUltra, along with every initiative Innovate UK has supported through this fund, is an important step forward in driving sustainable economic development. Each one is also helping to realise the ambitions of hard-working people.”

Beverley Nielsen, Chair, Ultra Light Rail Partners and Project Lead, BioUltra, stated: “We are delighted to have been awarded our second grant by Innovate UK having successfully completed our first IUK project in developing the UK’s first-of-a-kind biomethane-powered railcar. This really is a vote of confidence in our business which is fully focussed on providing lightweight affordable railcar travel as a comfortable, modern, reliable and safe alternative to travelling by car.

“We want to be able to offer this option to larger towns and smaller cities around the UK so they can realistically take polluting vehicles out of their city and town centres improving quality of life for all. Recent monitoring by Sustainability West Midlands identified that reducing the levels of just one pollutant, PM2.5 by 50%, would prevent as many as 952 deaths in the West Midlands alone each year.”

Phil Evans, MD, Premetro Operations Ltd, operators of the Stourbridge Shuttle, in supporting Project BioUltra, stated: “We have pioneered the highly successful operation of our light rail shuttle in Stourbridge which has carried over 6m passengers over the past ten years at 99.7% reliability – the most reliable operator in the country. We are keen to support innovation in light rail to expand this from on-rail into on-street operation and vastly increase clean, cheap, reliable transport choices for the public across the country.”

Paddy Fawcett, Invizio, said: “It’s a great pleasure to be working with Ultra Light Rail Partners. I am very passionate about reducing the impact of transport on the environment and see this project as a catalyst to a whole new breed of environmentally-friendly ultra-lightweight vehicles. I am very grateful to have met so many leading luminaries in this emerging sector who have a wealth of amazing experience with biomethane power, electrical integration and tram-train operation.”

Christopher Maltin, technical director of Ultra Light Rail Partners and chair of Organic Power, said: “Biomethane can be proved, without doubt, to be the most environmentally friendly fuel and I am delighted that, following on from producing the world’s first tram-train to be powered by biomethane, this locally produced and sustainable fuel will continue to be used for this new railcar. The combination of biomethane as the fuel and the absence of any particulates from tyre degradation or road abrasion will result in the cleanest form of public transport; both in terms of air quality which will be improved and climate change which will be reduced.”

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