Logistics innovation wins share of £9m Government fund

The University of Hull’s Logistics Institute has been awarded funding by the Department for Transport (DfT), in partnership with Innovate UK, as part of the First of a Kind (FOAK) Competition 2021.

The Logistics Institute’s winning innovation, one of 30 projects awarded a share of the £9m fund, is a novel Rail freight Energy & Emissions Calculator (REEC) that will be deployed on the Institute’s existing NR+ platform for rail freight planning.

REEC will enable rail freight operators to rapidly calculate accurate emissions, driving greater efficiencies and moving the rail industry a step closer to net zero.

Now in its fifth year, the FOAK competition is aimed at making railways cleaner, greener and more passenger friendly.

Professor Amar Ramudhin

Professor Amar Ramudhin, director at the Logistics Institute, said: “Building on our innovative NR+ platform, our energy and emissions calculator will provide much more precise emissions data.

“This will allow DfT and Network Rail to align their investment on rail electrification to areas with higher emissions and lead to opportunities to plan routes that are lower in carbon emissions, contributing to the UK’s commitment to providing a more reliable, efficient, and greener railway, as well as the University of Hull’s commitment to accelerating a net zero future.”

The project will be supported by rail freight operator, Freightliner, and consultants from Aether, Carrickarory, as well as an expert in emissions computation from the University of Derby.

NR+ is the first digital platform that fully describes the UK rail network capability, enabling Network Rail, rail operating companies and rail freight users to quickly and accurately understand and analyse routing options on the complex UK rail network.

Using the REEC calculator, the net accelerative/decelerative force on a train (based on resistive forces, track gradient, available tractive effort or brake force, train speed and mass) can be computed to determine how the train speed changes over time, the power that is required to be applied to meet the force balance and the time taken to traverse a section of track.

The resulting emissions computations are much more precise than using simplistic g/km emission factors.

The calculator will also bring a number of benefits to rail and freight operating companies. They will be able to look up the precise emissions for their routes and determine the effects on modal shift.

University of Hull Logistics Institute

Network Rail can use REEC to analyse the impact of delivering more efficient electrification strategies for freight trains.

By including energy and emissions in freight bids, Network Rail planners can start incorporating emissions optimisation in timetabling and make informed decisions on the impact of the emissions of e.g. delayed or longer freight trains.

Simon Edmonds, deputy executive chair and chief business officer of Innovate UK, said: “As we move ever closer to getting past the pandemic, passengers are returning to the railway.

“To give them ever greater confidence that rail is safe and sustainable we called upon UK innovators to come up with fresh ideas.

“Yet again the response has been fantastic. Not only will passengers benefit from these great innovations, but business prospects are bright in this sector too.”