Posted 18th March 2015 | 1 Comment

£6m rail innovation competition is opened for bids

A government-sponsored competition to encourage innovation in the rail industry has been launched by rail minister Claire Perry, who has called for 'departures from the norm'.

The Department for Transport said the £6 million project was intended to 'spur innovation' among train operators to meet the challenges of growing demand for rail travel while also improving standards.

The Train Operator Competition (TOC’15) is funded by the DfT and organised by FutureRailway, part of the Rail Safety and Standards Board. Recent projects with which it has been associated include the experimental battery train which went into trial service for several weeks between Manningtree and Harwich Town earlier this year.

Proposals are now being invited which train operators and their supply chains will fund alongside government support. The intention is to improve railways in a number of ways, including boosting capacity while reducing costs and carbon emissions.

Claire Perry said: "Innovation is vital to the rail industry as passenger numbers and customer expectations continue to rise. Harnessing the latest technology and being creative in customer service hold the key to staying competitive."

She explained: "We use the word ‘innovate’ so often these days that we’ve diluted its meaning. Big corporations employ ‘chief innovation officers’. Publishers churn out titles like ‘Innovation Nation’, or the ‘Little Black Book of Innovation’. Businesses throw the term around to describe things that they should be doing as a matter of course.

"And by the way, politicians – and the civil servants we work with – are no better. Well, today, we have an opportunity to rescue the word. Reclaim it – and restore it to its original definition. Meaning something new. A departure from the norm.

"Because through this competition, FutureRailway is challenging train operators to come up with some genuinely innovative solutions"

Application packs can be obtained from

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  • david c smith, milton keynes

    Before the advent of the Strategic Rail Authority, the passenger TOC's were beginning to innovate and invest but since then this has been largely"knocked on the head" by a creepimg command-and--control agenda by DfT. Although private capital is still theoretically accessible, this is unlikely to be committed to any great extent whilst the investment decisions are largely made by DfT rather than by the TOC's.

    Why does DfT have to administer innovation on the railway ? It's well known that government is generally poor at " identifying winners" in the economy. Even back in BR days, management decisions were largely made by an arms-langth BR boerd.