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Group of men and women posing with an award

Freight electrification demo wins rail innovation award

JFG Comms is delighted to see client, Furrer+Frey, win recognition for their innovative ‘Decarbonisation and Electrification of Freight Terminals’ project. The team at JFG were involved from early in the project and developed a comprehensive communications campaign that helped showcase Furrer+Frey’s expertise and generate further interest in the project as viable method for the widespread electrification of freight.

Furrer+Frey, with partners Tarmac, GB Railfreight and SPL Powerlines won a Railway Innovation Award in July for their role in demonstrating a moveable system for electrifying rail freight yards.

The demonstration, held in Wellingborough in Spring 2022, showed how electric freight trains could enter and exit yards under overhead power, with the overhead power bar being moved aside and isolated for safe loading and unloading.

With potential benefits for freight yard productivity and removing the need for diesel power, the project showed how decarbonising railways through electrification has a range of economic and environmental benefits. These include faster, more reliable freight trains benefiting rail passengers, to cleaner, quieter trains reducing air and noise pollution in urban areas.

The demonstrator initially won the support of InnovateUK’s 2021 First of a Kind competition, funded by the Department for Transport, after getting support from the Rail Freight Operators through the Rail Forum’s Rail Sector Deal SME Challenge initiative.

On Friday 1 July, the demonstrator won the award for best Small-Scale Project at the Railway Innovation Awards. It is the longest standing awards scheme in the industry, organised by the Modern Railways Fourth Friday Club in partnership with the Railway Industry Association.

Philip Sherratt, Editor of Modern Railways Magazine, said:

“It was great to see a wide range of excellent projects feature in this year’s Railway Innovation Awards.

“Furrer+Frey’s scheme delivered a high quality demonstration in a relevant setting of a technology which has the potential to make a real difference to decarbonising rail freight operations, as was shown by the significant interest in the demonstration.

“The project involved close cross-industry working and was delivered in a short timescale – it is thoroughly deserving of recognition through the Awards.”

Noel Dolphin, Furrer+Frey GB, said:

We’re delighted with the recognition this award gives us.

“Starting as a pitch to the Rail Forum, through to a full-scale demonstration in Wellingborough in a matter of months with multiple partners, big and small.

“It has been a fun ride with an important message to government and industry about the benefits of rail electrification to freight.”

Commenting on the demonstration in March, Rail Minister Wendy Morton MP said:

It is fantastic to see winners of our First Of A Kind competition getting out there and helping transform the railways for the better.

“Making rail freight even more environmentally friendly helps us leap forward in our plans to build back greener and make the whole UK net zero by 2050.

The project was also supported by Tarmac supply chain members, RFS, GRS and used a GB Railfreight class 92 locomotive and open-top wagons.

The demo was visited by Tik-Tok rail enthusiast, Francis Bourgeois.

Prizes were awarded in eight categories (plus a special award) at a lunchtime ceremony held at the Hilton London Canary Wharf on 1 July, with trophies for the winners and certificates for Highly Commended entries. The guest speaker at the event was HS2 CEO Mark Thurston, who highlighted the work of the company's own innovation programme.

Other highly commended entries to the Small Scale Project award included Crown Point Bogie Drop by Mechan and the Rail Demand Information System by RASIC.