Inventor on track for global success
AN INVENTOR in the Cotswolds who is revolutionising rail safety is on the brink of signing a contract that will help save the lives of billions of people.
Entrepreneur Roger West, 72, of RWL Ltd, has spent the past 15 years working on his invention Trackload, which looks set to improve rail safety on a global scale.
The system uses sensors to measure and monitor the stresses, temperature and other vital information of the track which could cause defects and, in extreme circumstances, derail a train.
Mr West's first success with the invention came in 2004 when the New York Transport Department installed the system in Grand Central Station under Central Park with more than one million passengers passing over it everyday. The deal was worth £700,000.
Trackload has been so successful over the past few years that rail chiefs here in the UK and in China and Australia have approached Mr West to trial the system in their countries.
"The system is particularly useful in places where there are huge masses of people because that's where the railway is vitally important such as China where there is potentially 1.5billion people using trains on a fairly regular basis," said Mr West. "Their tracks aren't really up to the traffic. What they need is something to assess the force in the track, compression and tension, and the impact of the wheels which skid a lot on wet leaves or can become cracked and buckle."
Mr West is a well-known businessman and engineer having co-founded Probe Ltd, later known as TRW Probe, in Cirencester in 1970 on the site now occupied by Waitrose.
He sold the company in 1982 when it relocated to Sunderland and has spent the past 15 years tucked away at his bases in Kempsford and Fairford working on the latest invention.
After extensive trials at a research centre in Derby and with a research organisation in the Colorado Desert in the USA, the sensor and the system it feeds with information were approved for international use.
The Chinese rail authorities have already signed up and are trialling the system.
"They have trains that can run at 300mph so this puts onus on the health of their rail tracks," added Mr West. "Unfortunately many fatalities and crashes have occurred recently, but it is hoped that Trackload will help combat these disasters."
Trials in China have so far been successful and are currently ongoing and Mr West is hopeful that a contract will be signed later this year.