Colin Johnson, managing director of DGauge, discusses his vision and aspirations for the company and the challenges that lie ahead
Britain’s rolling stock fleet has entered an era of rapid modernisation. Entire fleets are being replaced and older vehicles will be refurbished, re-engineered and cascaded to other parts of the network. The investment has been welcomed by the industry and passengers, but for the engineers tasked with making these new trains fit the network, the challenges are numerous.
To be able to maximise the space between vehicles and electrification infrastructure, and minimise the stepping distances for passengers, the engineers involved need to be able to access accurate gauging data.
‘As we embed ourselves in the digital age, then so we collect more data, require quicker answers and demand greater accuracy,’ says Colin Johnson, managing director of DGauge, one of the industry’s leading gauging specialists. ‘Our challenge is to create tools and services to meet these requirements.’
DGauge develops digital gauging technology and software. In simple terms, systems that can be used to work out what trains can run where, or what needs to be done to the train or infrastructure to accommodate them.
Established in 2008, the company’s formative years were primarily spent undertaking and supporting research into pantograph gauging. The company is currently supporting the Great Western Electrification Programme and is engaging novel gauging techniques as part of the RSSB’s innovation programme ‘Avoidance of Bridge Reconstruction’.
Says Colin, ’Electrification programmes are required to squeeze more space out of tight infrastructure and accurate gauging tools and techniques can be used to understand the space.’
The company continues to invest in and support industry research to this day and is currently working with RSSB to improve understanding of freight wagons, which will lead to improved gauging assessments across the network. ‘As the complexity of freight wagons increases, we can apply some of the more complex tools that we previously reserved for passenger vehicles to unlock space on the network,’ said Colin.
Software to consultancy
DGauge is currently applying its expertise to the introduction of Hitachi’s Class 385s in Scotland on the newly electrified Edinburgh to Glasgow route, the development of Stadler’s Class 745/755 FLIRT units for Greater Anglia and the South Wales Metro proposals for Transport for Wales – to name but a few.
‘Whilst innovative software is at the heart of DGauge, what we saw was the real need to provide a consultancy service to support our customers in all aspects of gauging,’ said Colin, explaining how the volume and detail of information generated by gauging assessment can be difficult for those without specialist tools and knowledge to interpret.
‘If the output isn’t understood, or the wrong question is asked, an overly conservative approach could be taken to a vehicle’s design, or an inaccurate picture of infrastructure modification costs will be generated.’
One of the latest solutions DGauge has developed, RouteSpace, is a cloud-based gauging portal that gives customers live access to the latest clearance and stepping information for any chosen route, asset, vehicle or franchise. It quickly and accurately highlights areas of risk or gauging concerns and is constantly updated to the latest infrastructure surveys and vehicle information.
‘We are currently supporting the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) by providing their members with nationwide stepping assessments for individual operators and their associated fleets. This allows them to understand their Passenger Train Interface (PTI) risks without the need to physically measure the infrastructure.’
RouteSpace is the first in a series of innovations that DGauge is rolling out to the industry. ‘The focus is to make gauging accessible, aligned to the latest data, and accurately, rapidly and reliably calculated,’ said Colin.
To support its variety of customers and challenges, DGauge has assembled a hugely experienced and passionate engineering team. The company recently moved its offices to Pride Park in Derby to be closer to its customer base and a wider pool of rail engineering talent. The company has already forged a partnership with Derby College and currently employs two engineering apprentices.
DGauge strives to be the UK leader in gauging, said Colin, and David Johnson – previously the technical driving force behind the business – is responsible for nurturing new talent within the team. The company’s other experts are now being brought to the fore, demonstrating the wealth of experience that resides within the business.
‘The opportunity to expand is here,’ Colin believes. The company is looking to double its staff numbers over the next three to five years and add to its talented team of software developers and engineers.
‘Unprecedented amounts of new fleets are on their way and, as a result, many older fleets are being cascaded around the country. Combined with the disruption of infrastructure programme changes and franchising, the challenge will be meeting customer demand.’