So far a model has been built to demonstrate the concept which consists of a patented arrangement of interlocking rail ends which incorporate a sliding arrangement similar to a breather switch. A lift and drop mechanism allows for expansion and provides an additional means of locking with virtually no friction losses. Repoint is designed to move in less than 1 second compared with 4 seconds for a standard switch.

Repoint should allow redundant, failsafe actuation and locking of track switches, which means that a failure of a single actuator element will not cause the entire switch to fail, thereby allowing trains to continue to pass over the switch until the element can be repaired.

"Britain's rail network, in particular, is under pressure to provide increased capacity and reliability at a reduced cost," says Professor Roger Dixon, head of Loughborough University's Control Systems Research Group. "With the support of RSSB, we can make track switch failures a thing of the past by introducing a cost-effective alternative which has not been seen before."

Discussions have already taken place with companies in South Africa, Australia and China to roll out the patented technology.