Award-Winning Case Study

BRAIded Novel beam STructures with Opportunities in Railcar Manufacture (BRAINSTORM)

12th May 2020


The cities that we live in are changing rapidly. Populations are growing and at the same time most cities are trying to reduce the number of private car journeys that people make. The result is pressure to install more public or shared transport and to innovate public transport to make it more suitable for the cities of the future.


Driven by the rail industry's challenges to industry known as the 4Cs - reduce Cost and Carbon emissions and improve Capacity and Customer satisfaction – the objective for BRAINSTORM was to develop a body structure for Very Light Rail (VLR) stock that could demonstrate a range of benefits over traditional metal bodies.

 Brainstorm addressed these issues by:

  • Being more economical to run because of its lightweight.
  • Use of a modular design concept to drive down production costs and make the solution suitable for trams, light trains, monorails and driverless pods.
  • Reduction in infrastructure costs driven by the weight of the rolling stock allowing Brainstorm to offer big savings to cities for new tram systems.
  • Simpler infrastructure allowing quicker installation and reducing the inconvenience to city residents while new tram lines are introduced.
  • Reduced rail wear and maintenance downtime reducing operating costs.

The required strength of rail components and compliance with safety regulations has meant composite materials have been adopted very slowly. The task of the team was to design, develop and manufacture a light-weight structural solution that proves the benefits of braided composite technology to shared passenger transport applications.


Analysis lead design (ALD) methodology was used to identify the previously mentioned industry requirements to focus on providing an effective solution that would meet the requirements.

An example of ALD can be seen in the demonstrator. The beams are all the same outside diameter, but the wall thickness is tailored to give the optimum cost/weight and performance balance. This keeps the tooling and joining costs low as the parts are standardised. It also enables the design to be very modular allowing quick repair and replacement of individual parts. This modularity enables the technology to stretch across a range of vehicle sizes from pods to monorail carriages. It also enables one system to contain carriages of different capacity for different lines without escalating set up costs exponentially.


The lighter body allows operators to optimise passenger density within a vehicle whilst minimising the energy required for propulsion. This also means lower line building costs due to the reduced weight loading on infrastructure.

The Brainstorm demonstrator appeared last year at the NEC and went on to win the Global Light Rail Award for Technical Innovation of the Year. We are now thrilled to announce the project has also been awarded the JEC Composites Innovation Award in Railway and Infrastructure.


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