UK Gov comes up with £200,000 plan to fix railway not spots

The UK Department of Transport has announced a £200,000 research programme to create a new type of radio antenna designed for clipping onto existing rail infrastructure.

With more than a third of the 11,000 miles of UK train lines powered using overhead line equipment (OLE), a recent report found that it would be more effective to attach radio equipment to this infrastructure as opposed to building track-side masts.

While it is a conclusion which many will simply confirm makes sense, the challenge now is to create suitable radio products for the brief.

“It is just not good enough that passenger’s mobile connectivity experience is still poor, blighting our efforts to work, shop and communicate on everyday journeys,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

“By harnessing innovation and updating existing infrastructure, we can build the railway of tomorrow and find affordable solutions to improve travel for passengers. I urge telecom operators to match our ambition and we can commit to working closely together to design equipment and move forward in the next stage of this exciting trial.”

The report from Mott McDonald, an engineering consultancy, focused on the feasibility of using the existing OLE infrastructure to support small cells and wireless antennas. The firm concluded that it would be possible, however products on the market today are not viable for such installations.

wFor example, there are slightly different electrical standards for equipment to be used on railway infrastructure (Railway Group Standard GL/RT1210 or Network Rail Company Standard NR/L2/ELP/27715 Module 04), while there are also plenty of weight loading considerations to take into account and new wind conditions, as the ‘deflection criteria’ is a lot more stringent in the railway industry.

One comment

  1. Avatar Michael Ferris 27/07/2020 @ 5:51 pm

    It seems a bit remiss that the feasibility report did not have within its scope the feasibility of getting backhaul to OLE infrastructure. There’s a passing mention that it needs sorting but, quite frankly, it’s critical because without backhaul there is no solution. Having approached Network Rail on a backhaul study in the past for one of the MNOs, that’s not an easy route. Don’t leave it as an afterthought.

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