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5G transport projects win new funding from WMCA

08/06/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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Projects using 5G for a ‘smart train robot’, supporting autonomous vehicles and navigation around train and bus stations are among those to receive a new round of funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

Trail of light from train at platform

It is planning to direct a total of £1.6 million through the West Midlands 5G (WM5G) programme and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM).

It will cover a minimum of three months of user or product testing within the region to verify benefits to operators and travellers.

The funding will cover six projects, expanding on the previous allocation of £2.4 million by WM5G and using its 5G testbed facilities:

5GER – Involving rail tech company TrainFX and Strathclyde and Surrey Universities, it is aimed at developing a train station robot to navigate large and complex stations, interacting with people and providing information.

Occupancy – Data firm Hack Partners and public transport operator FirstGroup are working on using 5G and video data learning to improve the occupancy of businesses and reduce overcrowding. The project could be extended to trams and trains.

CAG – Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Org, Westfield, WMG and Nexor are exploring how 5G can improve the safety of autonomous vehicles through real time applications with a connected control system. It is directed at the control of very light rail vehicles and at solving the safety concern of personal items and passengers trapped in doors.

Travel XR – Birmingham University, Bell Microsystems and Bright Yellow are aiming to improve navigation around train and bus stations using 5G’s high capacity for camera data and locational accuracy, with a solution utilising wearables, cameras and sensors to detect people in walkways.

Poly Track – Led by ESR, Southampton University and Polychord, the project used 5G’s positional accuracy and real time data transmission to detect imperfections in rail and tram tracks through sensors installed on the chassis of vehicles. This can contribute to maintenance regimes, ensuring work is done before imperfections get worse.

HPOMS – Involving Newcastle University, West Midlands Trains, JR Dynamics and AQ, this involves developing camera systems to provide visual footage of impacts and overhanging foliage, using 5G for high powered and near instantaneous imaging. This will make it possible to trigger appropriate alerts to improve safety and reduce operational costs.

Scope for enhancements

Chris Lane, head of transport innovation at TfWM, said: "The awarding of this second round of funding demonstrates the scope that 5G technology can offer in developing and enhancing transport across the West Midlands.

"These trials have the potential to revolutionise the way our regional transport systems operate, with the use of 5G across our transport system promising to create greater efficiencies and solidify the West Midlands as one of the most innovative regions in the UK.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said that by the end of the year WM5G will have nearly 20 projects coming to completion in the transport area.

Image from iStock, Chalabala

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