Innovation in automated survey processing for railway structure gauging

Key Features

Businesses can apply for a share of £720,000, plus VAT, to develop a demonstrator for automated railway structure gauging processing.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £720,000

Opens: 2nd Dec 2019

Closes: 29th Jan 2020

! This scheme is now closed


Network Rail will invest up to £720,000 (plus VAT) in phase 1 of this competition. An extra £1,080,000 (plus VAT) will be available for phase 2. This will support the development of a technological demonstrator for automated structure gauging processing. The competition process is managed by Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation.


The aim of this competition is to develop a solution for automating railway structure gauging processing and to demonstrate this using data recorded from the live railway.

For Phase 1 – you must achieve these objectives:

1. Training the application to identify and categorise 10 types of structure and vegetation with accuracy equivalent to a human. A supporting technical specification will be made available to organisations registering for this competition, containing additional information on the structures.

2. Record accurately with cant, curvature and clearance in 5 metre slices of point cloud to meet the requirements of the standard structure gauging file template.

Network Rail will give you point cloud data in .laz format or equivalent. For phase 1, you will be given a training set with identified structures, and a validation and test set. Each will cover approximately 10 miles of track and contain up to 1,000 structures.

You will not need to collect point cloud data as this will be provided by Network Rail.

If you are invited to phase 2 you will be given consecutive data sets of the same runs to enable identification of changes in the structures.

The competition aims to improve the accuracy and efficiency of gauging processing. Your project must accurately demonstrate:

  • identification of existing structures by comparison with the existing National Gauging Database, which will be shared if you are awarded funding
  • correct identification of vegetation and masonry
  • repeatability and reproducibility
  • reading of structure distance and track cant and curvature
  • identification of changes such as removed structures and added structures
  • conversion of point cloud slices into structural gauging files

Innovate UK will include additional information on the technical objectives of the project in the supporting technical document pack. This is available to you, along with information on relevant Network Rail standards and protocols, in the secure download site once you start your application.

Scope information for Phase 2 is also available on the Innovate UK competition listing – click here.


Your organisation must:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • be based in the UK, EU, or EEA

Your organisation can work alone or, if you do not have all the required expertise, you can work with others as subcontractors. Successful applicants will be expected to support quarterly progress meetings held in the UK.

Project teams must include organisations with expertise in infrastructure inspection, surveying and measurement.

Innovate UK expect your demonstration to focus on data from an operational railway environment. If your organisation is new to the rail sector, they would encourage you to partner with organisations with appropriate rail experience. However, you will need to develop your own relationships with organisations with appropriate expertise.

Funding Costs

There is up to £720,000 plus VAT allocated to fund innovation projects in phase 1. Successful projects will be 100% funded. The funding is provided by Network Rail and the competition process is managed by Innovate UK as part of UK Research and Innovation.

For phase 1, your project’s total eligible costs must be up to £90,000 plus VAT. Phase 1 projects must plan to start by May 2020 and end by July 2020. It is expected that up to 8 phase 1 projects will be funded.

Only successful applicants from phase 1 will be able to apply to take part in phase 2. Innovate UK will monitor changes between your phase 1 and phase 2 submissions. They will not accept unjustified major changes in the project team or costs at phase 2.

Applications must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively for research and development (R&D) services. For this competition, your application should focus on prototyping and field-testing your product or service in a representative railway environment.

R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes


Innovate UK do not fund projects that:

  • cannot be successfully exploited by the rail industry to deliver benefits to rail or light-rail organisations and their customers
  • do not create a significant change in the level of innovation available in the rail industry
  • are not high maturity
  • have high technical risk
  • are collaborations that cannot deliver an effective demonstration in a railway environment
  • do not have a demonstration phase, offering the customer a chance to use and give feedback on the innovation
  • include anything that presents a risk to the operational railway or safety of workers