UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering


Beyond the tracks: Unveiling the future of rail innovation at the PEARL industry showcase event

18 June 2024

UCL PEARL hosted an industry showcase on April 15, 2024. Key stakeholders from the transport sector attended to explore how people interact with their environment and technologies. PEARL is the newest member of the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN).


London, UK April 15, 2024.

The UCL Person Environment Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL) hosted an industry showcase day on Monday, April 15, 2024. The event aimed to highlight the research and demonstrate the testing capabilities of PEARL, the newest member of the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN), to key stakeholders in the railway industry. It provided a platform to demonstrate how these capabilities can facilitate testing of human interactions with environments and technologies. 

Nick Tyler, Director of UCL PEARL and Chadwick Chair of Civil Engineering, opened the event with a captivating multi-sensory presentation. Prof. Tyler introduced PEARL as a dynamic environment for investigating how people interact with railway systems through controlled manipulations of movement, sound, light, and more. "Being here, it’s a bit like sitting inside your own brain," Prof. Tyler remarked, explaining how the facility can create pitch darkness and measure how the human brain and perception react to environmental changes. 

Prof. Tyler showcased the facility's capabilities by adjusting its acoustic elements. Despite the expansive hangar and its surrounding emptiness, the sound was effectively controlled to simulate the acoustics of a compact, echo-free room. The PEARL technicians then changed the acoustics to mimic the Cathedral of St ÉSenne in France. "You have placed a sense of height to the space that did not exist before, either in your mind or in reality," Tyler explained, illustrating how sound can alter perception. By changing the reverberation from one second to seven seconds, they altered how sound is reflected and absorbed in the space. "So, what arrives in your ears is different – that’s the physics – this is not important but the perceptual shift it causes is crucial." Prof. Tyler elaborated. 

The presentation proceeded at an elevated railway platform. "If we had no light from the station at all, and just relied on some starlight, how much could you see?" Prof. Tyler posed. Attendees then encountered firsthand the effects of sound and light, such as discerning a train approaching swiftly in darkness or observing a person in high-visibility attire on the track. Prof. Tyler underscored the criticality of adhering to current inadequate lighting standards and their profound influence on visibility. 

The showcase featured keynote speeches from prominent industry leaders: Nassar Majothi, Director of Systems Integration at HS2; Lord Toby Harris, Chair of the National Preparedness Commission; and Brian Collins, Ambassador at Large for UKCRIC. Their addresses focused on crucial themes such as prioritising passengers through a customer-centric approach to public transport, the significance of preparedness and resilience in the railway sector, and the critical role of human factors in railway systems integration. 

The event concluded with a plenary discussion chaired by John Beckford, Director of Beckford Consulting, and Mikela Chatzimichailidou, Professor in Design for Mobility, Health, People, and Society at UCL. This session tackled four key challenges, highlighting the importance of research and testing facilities like PEARL in addressing pivotal industry issues. The discussion emphasised the need to raise awareness about these facilities and promote collaboration to enhance access to testing environments, thereby accelerating the adoption of innovative solutions. 

Watch highlights from the Industry Showcase Day

MediaCentral Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Player/2EdEeEb8


PEARL is part of the UK's national research facility for infrastructure and cities, the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC). Hosted by UCL, PEARL is a transdisciplinary research facility within the Centre for Transport Studies, which is part of the Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering.