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Universal Signalling shortlisted for RIA RISE award for Innovation

13 May 2024:

Universal Signalling, leading a consortium of industry partners, has been shortlisted for a prestigious RIA (Railway Industry Association) (RIA) award for Innovation. The award shortlist is part of RIA’s annual RISE (Railway Industry Supplier Excellence) awards. 

The shortlisted entry recognises Universal Signalling’s groundbreaking work to deliver a first-of-type installation of it’s Universal Interlocking architecture on the BCIMO test track through late 2023 and into 2024. This culminated in the demonstration of speed supervision of two vehicles.

Commenting on news of the shortlist, Dr Sam Bemment, Chief Executive of Universal Signalling, said: “We’ve come a long way since the company was founded only 18 months ago. In our award submission, we detailed our work alongside our partners deploying key elements of our world-first Universal Interlocking architecture. It has been said that a universal interlocking really is the holy grail of railway signalling. It enables a signalling system to be deployable in days not decades, and at a fraction of current costs. 


Sam Added: “This award shortlisting not only recognises the impact such an innovation could have – changing the railway as we know it. It also recognises that this achievement is the result of close collaboration between many industry partners, without who’s help we could never have achieved what we have, in such short time.”

 

RIA Marketing & Events Manager, Grace Smithen commented: “We would like to congratulate all of the individuals and suppliers shortlisted for the RIA RISE Awards and express our thanks to the expert judging panel of industry figures who took the time to review the entries. We’d also like to extend our appreciation to those who took the time to submit entries and showcase their achievements. The awards showcase the very best practice among rail suppliers and we look forward to celebrating with those shortlisted and the winners at the event on 27 June.”

 

The list of supporting partners cited in the award nomination are, in alphabetical order:

 

The full award shortlist citation reads: “Signalling represents one of the largest capital, operational and maintenance costs of any railway. Signalling is dependent upon interlocking: the safety critical computer which prevents trains crashing into each other, being misrouted, or derailing at junctions. Existing interlockings are custom designed to fit the infrastructure they protect. Custom design causes long project lifecycles, often measured in decades, making signalling extremely expensive. In April 2024, a consortium led by Universal Signalling deployed the world’s first ‘universal interlocking’ to the 2.2km BCIMO test track. This is the holy grail of railway signalling, aspired to by signalling engineers for generations, but, until now, never successfully deployed. It has been created in the UK by a team of British engineers. There is significant potential forward impact with adoption. The ability to re-signal in days, without design, and to do so at a fraction of current costs, could completely change the construction and operation of railways worldwide. Infrastructure can be fitted in hours, trains in minutes, and services could run as soon as track is laid. Responsiveness could increase: a freight siding or additional platform could be in use instantly. Near-moving block capacity could be achieved right now, not after decades of disruptive upgrades.” 

First light rail demo completed at BCIMO, Dudley

1 May 2024:

The Universal signalling team successfully closed out their involvement with the Connected Places Catapult sponsored Clean Futures Accelerator programme on 30 April 2024.

The demonstration day saw all programme participants demonstrate their innovations to over 120 attendees

In Universal Signalling's case, this meant showing attendees  components installed on the 2.2km test track and the installation methodology. Vehicles were not running on the day due to the number of visitors on track, so several videos of recent system testing from both onboard and lineside provided an informative talking point for several potential clients, end users, and other interested parties. 

Overall, the day was a fantastic success for all concerned, and Universal Signalling staff wish to give credit to BCIMO and the Connected Places Catapult for the excellent organisation and execution.

Vertex Systems Engineering to provide Universal Signalling safety engineering support

25 April 2024:

Vertex Systems Engineering, part of the AMCL group of companies, has signed an agreement to support the safety engineering activities which will underpin Universal Signalling’s product suite.

Vertex is a leading engineering consultancy, providing industries with an independent, technically knowledgeable group of safety, systems, and project delivery services. They have a solid grounding in a range of asset intensive industries, in particular transportation. Vertex staff have been involved in many notable signalling technology development and deployment activities worldwide for infrastructure managers as well as tier-1 suppliers . They have an impressive client base spread across Europe, North America, Australia, and most recently, the Middle East.

Mark Beeson, Product Director at Universal Signalling commented: “We selected Vertex from a number of potential partners, due to their impressive track record, clear understanding of the innovation pathway in railway signalling, and their worldwide knowledge and client base. We knew Vertex had an impressive skillset to bring to the table, and this was confirmed as soon as we started working with them. Independent safety assurance, validation and verification activities are critical to the success of Universal Signalling’s innovative digital signalling architecture and ethos.”

This architecture promises to slash digital signalling costs by enabling resignalling projects to be completed in days, not decades.

Matthew Elmes, Managing Director at Vertex Systems Engineering and Global Rail Director at the AMCL group of companies said: “Universal Signalling's digital signalling solution offers a unique opportunity for railway operators to simplify the control system and also reduce the fixed asset base, whilst retaining all current user needs with significant whole of life enhancements. Vertex is proud to have been selected in supporting Universal Signalling in this journey”.

https://vertex-se.com/

Universal Signalling welcomes experienced Principal Engineer 

10 April 2024:

Universal Signalling is delighted to welcome Robin Lee to the team this week as a Principal Engineer. 

Robin is a chartered engineer with experience developing safety critical railway signalling products. He has led development projects working to relevant BS EN standards, performing both system design and other system engineering activities. 

His previous experience includes developing a low cost signalling system that communicates over open IP networks, a track-worker warning system, and a points movement inhibition system. He has also previously supported Network Rail’s ETCS/EULYNX radio based limited supervision project.


Tilt Consulting to provide development support to Universal Signalling

26 March 2024:

Tilt Consulting, an independent strategic and technical consultancy who specialise in system integration and train control, have signed an agreement to provide engineering and development support to Universal Signalling’s industry-challenging new digital signalling product line.

Speaking of the tie-up, Martin Fenner, Business Development Director at Tilt, said: “We have known the engineers behind Universal Signalling for some time, and have worked with them on many other successful projects. After having heard the detail of their ideas, we were keen to offer our support and get involved. We see significant worldwide demand for a solution such as this: not just as a lower-cost signalling system, but potentially as a way to get digital signalling rolled out much faster than any other design without sacrificing functionality or performance. This in itself has clear safety and performance benefits. We are excited to get started on helping Universal Signalling bring their innovations to market”.

Dr Nick Wright, CTO at Universal Signalling, added “The breadth and depth of experience at Tilt – not just in UK but overseas too – is clearly impressive, as demonstrated by their client base and track record. Having this experience supporting us on our journey to first deployment, and potentially beyond, will be invaluable in making our product the best it can be for our customers. We look forward to getting started this month”. 

Universal Signalling are currently working on 2 product demonstrators. The first, geared towards light rail, is currently being installed at the very light rail national innovation centre at BCIMO, Dudley, and will be up and running from the end of April. The second, a more feature-rich heavy-rail version, will be fitted to the new GCRE test site later in the year under a programme supported by the Department for Business and Trade and Innovate UK. 

Universal Signalling featured in Rail Director magazine

23 March 2024:

Sam Bemment, CEO of Universal Signalling, was interviewed for Rail Director Magazine's March 2024 edition. Rail Director is an industry-leading, printed magazine delivered directly to key decision-makers and government officials.

Magazine editor Danny Longhorn introduced the edition as largely following a signalling theme, with Universal Signalling featured alongside Rob Morris, MD of Siemens Mobility - Rail Infrastructure, Transport secretary Mark Harper, and Toufic Machnouk, Director, Industry partnership for Digital Railway.

Read the full article here.

Infrastructure trial fitment at BCIMO complete

21 March 2024:

Monday 18th March saw our team perform the first full trial installation of our equipment throughout the length of the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation test track in Dudley. Our system was fitted over 2.2km of infrastructure, including a 900m tunnel and an instrumented slab track loop. The installation was  both designed and deployed inside 5 hours by a 3-person team. The team were given no prior information about the track layout other than the total length to be fitted, and the number of point ends (5) and level crossings (in this case, none). The whole team were delighted with the results, surprising even themselves with the speed and simplicity of install. 

Wednesday 20th March saw the team return to temporarily fit the prototype on-train kit to the site's Bance vehicle for initial low speed functionality testing. End-to-end shakedown and functional testing activity was successfully completed within the day.

The team will shortly move on to more in-depth testing activity which will see a wide range of data collected. This will feed into ongoing work around fault tolerance and, most importantly, help make the safety case for the architecture during formal approval workstream.


Leadership team strengthened with CFO appointment

05 March 2024:

Universal Signalling has strengthened its leadership team with the appointment of Sarah Ashworth ACA as Chief Financial Officer.

Sarah is a Big Four-trained senior finance professional, with a diverse working background ranging from start-ups to FTSE 100. She started her career at KPMG before holding roles within Corporate Financial Analysis (RBS) and Strategic Planning (Experian). Five years ago, Sarah transitioned to start-up / SME-focused work, holding various leadership roles including in fintech. Sarah has always been passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion in business and has shaped her career with this in mind.

Sarah joins at a significant time for the company, during a period of headcount growth to deliver two first-of-type technology demonstrator projects for both light and heavy rail applications.

Minister of state for Rail visits BCIMO test site

15 February 2024:

The Right Hon. Huw Merriman MP, Minister of State for Rail and HS2 visited BCIMO, future home of Universal Signalling's light rail demonstrator on Thursday 15th February. Universal Signalling CEO Sam Bemment had a brief opportunity to update the minister on Universal Signalling's plans.

The minister joined other politicians - including Dudley North MP Marco Longhi and Dudley Council Leader Patrick Harley - riding in the Coventry Very Light Rail vehicle over infrastructure that was recently fitted with the first prototype Universal Signalling components.

Local media have reported on the visit including recording a short video of the journey in the vehicle at speeds of up to 40kph. 

The minister said he was pleased to be able to see the unique and innovative technology being tested at the centre and said he felt it would be the future of transit systems in the country. 

He said: "It's great to be here and I think it's pretty unique and innovative technology that's being deployed here and, really, it looks to be the future."

Marco Longhi added: "It's great that Huw has come to Dudley to visit what we're doing with the Very Light Rail scheme, as well as the fact that he is seeing for himself that we've got a unique track in the United Kingdom for testing not just light rail, but all sorts of other rail concepts."

Sam Bemment commented: "Sadly the minister is here just a couple of months too early to have enjoyed that vehicle ride under the supervision of Universal Signalling's full system, but we will of course be inviting him back in due course to see our technology in action at one of our demonstration days."


Universal Signalling to install £800k demo fitment on GCRE

11 January 2024:

Universal Signalling Ltd has been successfully selected as one of a number of companies to demonstrate innovations in railway construction technology upon the new Global Centre for Rail Excellence site in Wales, under a programme supported by the Department for Business and Trade, and InnovateUK. The Global Centre of Rail Excellence is a world class facility for rail research, testing and certification of rolling stock, infrastructure and cutting-edge new technologies currently being developed in South Wales. Located on a 700-hecatre site, GCRE will become Europe’s premier site for rail and mobility innovation.

This project is funded by the Department for Business and Trade through the competition  ‘GCRE: Railway Construction Innovation Phase 2’, delivered by InnovateUK in collaboration with GCRE. All the supporting parties have a stated desire to build innovative approaches, methods and technologies into GCRE test centre right from when the very first spade hits the ground.

This win follows on from Universal Signalling's earlier successful delivery of a feasibility study as part of the 'Innovation in Railway Construction Phase 1' project.

Working alongside a number of supporting partners including Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE), Universal Signalling Ltd will deploy an overlay of it's patent-pending Universal Interlocking system to existing GCRE track by Q1 2025, in a project with a total delivered value of £793,000. 

Following announcement of the win, Sam Bemment, CEO at Universal Signalling, commented: "We should not underestimate the opportunity GCRE presents to enabling rail innovation. Firstly, through offering a place where those with novel approaches are able to test and demonstrate technology, but secondly, and most importantly, by making that opportunity available to an SME start-up such as ourselves. There was no mechanism for this to have happened even a few years ago, so clearly, GCRE is already starting to have significant impact even as it is being built. We are obviously delighted with the win and excited to be part of GCRE's journey, through the forthcoming construction phase and then on into operations."