Northern presents technology amongst software being installed to make railways safer and made famous by NASA

Northern presents technology amongst software being installed to make railways safer and made famous by NASA

The train operator has revealed details of the light detection and radar (LIDAR) scanning technology it is installing across its fleet of 345 trains.

Chief among the application of LIDAR technology is horizon-scanning cameras that can detect infrastructure defects, environmental threats, and maintenance issues.

The train-mounted cameras use the same light detection and radar (LIDAR) process as used by meteorologists to measure clouds and pollution and which was famously used by NASA to map the surface of the moon.

Thermal imaging systems will also be deployed to monitor passenger load factors and provide accurate information to service partners in the event of an emergency.

Northern is also aligning its on-board CCTV systems with British Transport Police to enable officers to tune in to live, high-definition footage onboard its trains.

Nick Donovan, managing director of Northern, said: “This is the beginning of what we’re calling ‘Intelligent Trains’. With these modifications, our fleet won’t just travel the network, they will actively monitor and report back on issues that could have an impact on our operation.

Scenarios Northern has used to outline the benefits of the new technology include:

  • Trains being able to detect ‘bumps on the line’ as they pass over them and automatically send GPS co-ordinates to maintenance teams responsible for repairs
  • External mounted cameras scanning the roof of tunnels for loose bricks so they can be flagged with infrastructure safety teams before they become a danger
  • Sensors able to spot energy-saving opportunities, such as station lighting being left on during the daytime, as trains travel through platforms
  • Security incidents and threats to public safety are being monitored in real-time by British Transport Police officers

Roll-out of the new technology will begin later this month, with more to follow throughout 2022.

Northern is the second largest train operator in the country with nearly 2,000 services a day to more than 500 stations across the North of England.
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