During the 19th Century, the UK was the first to develop a rail network, which became an essential part of the industrial revolution that swept the country. The rail network has expanded exponentially since 1825 when the world’s first ever railway was opened in the UK between Stockton and Darlington.
Britain led the way in rail advances during this time, with the introduction of the London Underground in 1863 followed by the construction of the Forth Bridge in 1890. Given that more than £3billion was spent on British railways between 1845 and 1900, it is no surprise that the UK paved the way in the rail industry across the globe.
Innovation at its best
Updating, developing and expanding the potential of what the rail network can do has always been a priority within the UK. The British Rail Research Division were responsible for a significant part of this, as they pushed the boundaries and created designs that would be used on rail networks the world over.
This research centre was responsible for developing pre-worn wheels and the four wheel high speed freight vehicle that was stable at much higher speeds than had been achieved previously. The innovation here was key and saw many British engineers outsourced to other countries in order to aid their rail programmes.
This research centre was responsible for the development of one of the most significant developments in the rail industry, the Advanced Passenger Train, or ATP. Previously, trains were unable to sway, which meant in order to turn a corner they had to slow down significantly. The ATP was the first train designed with tilting technology, allowing it to move with the corner and travel at a much faster speed.
The ATP was the first carriage of its kind to use hydraulic jacks and sensors to move the carriages at high speed. Unfortunately, the ATP was not as successful as it could have been as the engineers tried to launch too many different concepts in one train. However, this tilting technology was the basis for designs created by the Italian engineers at Fiat who developed and created the Pendolino trains that are in use today.
On the 2nd of February, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin delivered a speech on the pioneering work that is being done by the British rail industry. With the safest rail network in Europe, it’s clear that Britain is setting a precedent for the standards that have to be maintained both in engineering and supply to ensure the rail networks are a safe place.
The Crossrail, HS2 and Thameslink Programme are all exciting developments that continue to break new ground in terms of engineering requirements and capabilities. What’s positive about these projects is that the government are aiming to provide 30,000 apprenticeships in the rail industry over the next four years, which should provide the talent needed in this global industry.