Company creates potentially life-saving footbridge for rail crossings

A Huddersfield company is on track to help save lives after developing an innovative new footbridge designed to replace level crossings for pedestrians.

Associated Utility Supplies (AUS), based in Clayton West, has been working with the University of Huddersfield to design and manufacture a new type of railway footbridge made from fibre-reinforced plastic.

Easier to assemble and install than a traditional steel footbridge, significantly reducing the cost to the UK taxpayer and disruption to services, it also has a lower environmental impact.

In the last 10 years, Network Rail has closed more than 1,000 UK level crossings and brought in many new safety measures.

However, more than 3,000 of its level and pedestrian crossings have been identified as having safety issues, and the new footbridge could potentially be installed at 1,000 of these.

It features a reduction in components of more than 50% and a mass reduction of 66%, compared with traditional footbridges. It is also expected to be four times quicker to install.

The first footbridge will be installed at the Quinton Rail Technology Centre at Long Marston in March 2021.

Network Rail (NWR) will oversee the installation as Principal Contractor, and will use a test track to optimise the installation process before moving to a live rail environment.

NWR and HS2 are both supporting the project and providing input throughout the nine-month project, which began in July 2020.

The project to develop the footbridge was funded by a grant from the Department of Transport’s First of a Kind competition (FOAK), administered by the national innovation agency Innovate UK.

AUS also received a grant to develop a new type of clamp assembly made of aluminium bronze, a low-cost solution to maintaining overhead electric wires with less disruption to train services. The two grants together were worth £721000.

Simon Gibson, managing director of AUS, said: “Only 25 grants were awarded by FOAK across the whole country, so for our company to have two projects funded is exceptional.

“Our reputation with Network Rail has gone up and up in the past three and a half years and has been enhanced by our links with the university.

“This has led to relationships with the Department of Transport and Innovate UK, and as a direct result, we received the two successful First of a Kind Awards.”