Unipart Rail wins share of £9.4 million for new zero-emissions rail handling machine

McCulloch Rail TRT machines being assembled at Unipart's Crewe facility.

Unipart Rail has been picked as one of the winners of the 2020 First of a Kind (FOAK) competition, which encourages innovation in the rail industry.

25 pioneering projects will share £9.4 million as the competition, organised by the Department for Transport in partnership with Innovate UK, awards funding to innovative projects that will make railways cleaner, greener and more passenger friendly.

Unipart Rail was selected as a winner in the ‘environmental sustainability’ category for its development of the ‘TRT-e’ – a zero-emissions Trac Rail Transposer that is being developed in conjunction with McCulloch Rail, Hyperbat, Williams Advanced Engineering and Advanced Electric Machines.

The standartd McCulloch TRT at work.

The basis of the new TRT-e is the McCulloch Rail TRT machine – the safest, most versatile, rail handling machine on the rail infrastructure. Unipart Rail and its partners are then working together to remove the current diesel power unit and develop an electric motor, battery power pack and electronic control system, with remote condition monitoring, to produce a zero-emissions machine.

The resultant ‘green machine’ will be able work on the rail infrastructure in locations where diesel emissions and noise pollution are a particular problem, such as in underground systems, tunnels and enclosed stations. It will enhance the working environment and experience of contractors working with the machines.

Noel Travers, Unipart Rail.

The output of this project will be a fully working prototype, performance-tested, certified, ready to be worked on the UK rail network by McCulloch Rail and demonstrated to potential customers worldwide.

Noel Travers, managing director of Unipart Rail, said: “Our partnership with McCulloch Rail is one I am very proud of – their technology is transforming rail handling methods, and this is an example of how joint innovative thinking drives massive value for the rail industry.

“I am very excited to see this development happen and look forward to the product launch in 2021, when I expect it to have a strong uptake with our customers.”

Billy McCulloch, McCulloch Rail.

McCulloch Rail engineering director Billy McCulloch added: “The TRT is already a great product – the development of the fully electric version will be a big step forward in the world of lifting and handling, and we are excited to develop this first-of-its-kind technology for the rail industry.”

The first prototype is currently under development and should be on test by Spring 2021.

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