MoniRail wins funding to develop quantum-based navigation system for railways

University of Birmingham spin out MoniRail has been awarded a prestigious contract by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and Innovate UK.

Published today3 minute read

The award, a prestigious SBRI: Quantum Catalyst Fund (Phase 2) contract, will enable MoniRail and its partners Transport for London (TfL), Imperial College London, University of Sussex, University of Birmingham, PA Consulting, QinetiQ, and Unipart, to develop a Quantum-based navigation system for railways to address the issues arising from the loss of satellite signal in tunnels. 

Understanding train-position in rail networks to high degrees of accuracy is critical for rail infrastructure monitoring, measurement, and maintenance. This is one of the biggest expenses of the railway, with over £2bn per year invested in infrastructure maintenance.

The proposed system from the team led by MoniRail will combine the technologies and knowledge from all partner organisations, to enhance positioning accuracy without relying on expensive infrastructure-based solutions and focus on demonstrating the condition-based maintenance use-case.

MoniRail’s approach is to use a train as a sensor to frequently monitor track. This, coupled with precise positioning, provides a more accurate understanding of a rail network’s condition. Using the data captured by in service vehicles enhances the ability to predict when necessary intervention is required.

Peter Ainsworth, CEO at MoniRail, commented: “It is fantastic to be able to share the news of our success in the SBRI Quantum Catalyst Fund this week. As a University of Birmingham spin-out, we always endeavour to work closely with our peers across the industry and firmly believe that collaboration is key to developing new solutions which can benefit the whole railway.

“This funding win will help our relationships and partnerships to produce significant advances in the area of positioning accuracy and enhance our track monitoring solution, through the creation of groundbreaking technology.”

“Working with our partners we will harness quantum sensors to measure parameters such as gravity, time, magnetic fields, and acceleration. This will enable us to explore how we can achieve improved levels of positional accuracy which are critical for both civilian and military needs,” Dr Jamie Vovrosh, Quantum Lead at QinetiQ, explained.

Dr Colin Smith McGloin, Product and Innovation Director at Unipart said: “Unipart is delighted to be the technology partner for this project, supporting advancements in railway navigation. We are excited to begin our journey in developing a UK supply chain for the manufacture of quantum sensors.”

Professor Paul Plummer, Director of the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education at the University of Birmingham, commented: “It is exciting to see what bringing together academia and industry can do for the transport sector and the economy as a whole. Access to technological developments coupled with evidence-backed research and industry know-how provide a pathway for SMEs like MoniRail to make a difference and shape the future of transportation.”

Mani Entezami, Research Fellow in Condition Monitoring at the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education at the University of Birmingham said: “This project represents a significant leap forward in our quest to advance rail transportation, focusing on enhancing tunnel positioning and condition monitoring through innovative Quantum Technology (QT).

“Our role in this groundbreaking initiative will be to support system integration, ensuring that QT becomes a practical and transformative tool within the rail environment. This collaboration not only highlights our commitment to cutting-edge research and innovation but also solidifies our position at the forefront of technological advancements in rail. We are proud to partner with MoniRail on this venture, combining our academic expertise with their industry-leading innovations. Together, we are set to redefine what’s possible in rail technology, making transportation more efficient, and more reliable.”

Rail experts together with MoniRail offer innovative remote condition monitoring systems and data consultancy that cater to efficient and seamless infrastructure maintenance solutions. They already provide a solution for monitoring the condition and degradation of railway track from on-board operational passenger and freight trains.

Their success in this funding competition will allow them to collaborate with other industry leaders, furthering their work in this area with a particular focus on train positioning without the use of satellites.


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