FUNDING has been awarded to the University of Southampton as it researches the environmental impacts of rail travel.

The university is one of five organisations to receive the funding from the Government’s £9 million ‘First of a Kind’ competition to make the railways cleaner and greener.

The IMAGE (innovative composite mast for greener electrification) project is a collaboration between industry and academia to develop a lightweight, low carbon composite support structure for electrification wires.

Now the university’s School of Engineering is due to develop foundation designs to help reduce the use of costly and carbon-intensive steel and concrete and also to speed up installation.

Professor David Richards, head of the School of Engineering, said: “To meet its decarbonisation objectives, Network Rail has to electrify 13,000km of UK track by 2050.

“This project will offer a significant reduction in the mass of the support masts, but the real benefits lie in the cumulative positive effects of reducing the size of the foundations, cutting the cost and embedded carbon involved in reducing transport emissions.

“Decarbonisation of transport infrastructure and the way we use it, to help avert the climate catastrophe, is a major goal and we are proud to contribute to this project.”

The First of a Kind competition is focused on developing pioneering technology and exceptional ideas that can improve journeys for travellers, encourage passengers back onto trains and reduce the environmental impacts of rail.

Now in its fifth round, the competition was open to inventors from across the nation.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I am delighted to announce the winners of the 2021 First of a Kind competition. These winners will hopefully play a role in putting passengers at the centre of our railways as we build back better from Covid-19."