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Heated railway platforms tested to avoid ice accidents; Eurostar gets biometric entry

Researchers developing railway station platforms that automatically melt ice have been given a share of £9.4m in Government funding.

The concrete slabs come with a built-in heating system that activates in freezing conditions to prevent dangerous icy conditions for passengers.

Rail Safety and Standards Board figures show that 19 people were killed and more than 7,000 were injured in accidents around platform edges on Britain’s railways in a recent five-year period.

Other projects benefitting from the funding include the Seatfrog Train Swap app, which will allow passengers to quickly and remotely update their seat reservation to another service.

A world-first zero-emission machine for removing and replacing rails has also been developed, along with hydrogen-based steam turbines to provide zero-emission, low-noise rail freight.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “I am delighted to announce the winners of this year’s 'First of a Kind' competition which will support better, more environmentally friendly journeys.

“Crucially, these pioneering projects will also ensure that passengers have a more efficient, reliable and responsive railway, making their journeys simpler and easier.

“From clever technology on platforms to prevent icy surfaces, new seat-switching apps and improved 5G Wi-Fi connections, harnessing innovation will be crucial to modernising the network and making our railways greener and cleaner, as we build out of Covid-19 and look to the future.”

In a separate project pioneered by iProov, rail passengers using Eurostar services will soon be able to take advantage of a facial biometric corridor to enable contactless journeys.

The walk-through system will allow customers to complete ticket checks and border exit processes at St Pancras International station without needing to come into contact with people or hardware.

The concept, already trialled in airports to increase speed and safety and manage immigration, is now being brought to train travel as part of a competition run by Innovate UK and funded by the Department for Transport.

Passengers planning to travel on Eurostar services would be offered an accelerated pre-boarding option. Prior to travelling, they would use the Eurostar app to scan their identity documentation. The iProov facial biometric check then uses controlled illumination to authenticate the identity of the user against the ID document.

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