Launched in 2020 as part of our Future Vision strategy, TDI has put together several multi-disciplinary teams to work on key current issues in the transport sector.


Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic many people have been, or may feel, hesitant about taking public transport, due to the perceived risk of picking up viruses from areas such as the grab-poles on trains, buses and trams, which are the principal point of contact. The purpose of this team is to help the UKs badly-hit rail industries recover following the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting their efforts to provide safe, COVID-secure services to their customers.

As part of a research consortium, we are exploring the feasibility of combining antimicrobial coatings with bio resin-based prepregs, to deliver a new class of sustainable composite materials for use in mass transport interiors, which combine antimicrobial properties with exceptional fire, smoke and toxicity performance. These are projects investigating the development of vehicle interiors.

The aim of this project is to bring significant environmental sustainability and climate change benefits by providing a solution which can:

    • 1. provide significant weight-reduction and therefore fuel – savings when used to replace metal components, and
    • 2. accelerate the phase-out of harmful, fossil fuel-derived phenolic composites and replace them with a non-hazardous, bio-derived alternative.
Sustainable composite materials for vehicle interiors.
Sustainable composite materials for vehicle interiors.

The team are working with WMG and Composite Braiding to develop anti-microbial grab poles that will be used for use in a wide range of public transport applications, such as bus, tram, rail and underground. This should lead to a step-change in hygiene in public transportation and a reduction in transmission of infections of various origins.
At the project completion there is an opportunity to demonstrate, for the first time, the new grab-poles directly within new prototype vehicles such as Revolution VLR and the Coventry Light Rail vehicles.

The poles themselves will be retro-fittable, so not only can they be fitted into new vehicles, they can replace current steel poles in existing ones such as buses and the Underground. The project aims to make a range of poles at costs competitive to the current steel ones, however, due to their light-weight material they will be around a third of the weight and will also help with meeting decarbonisation goals by aiding fuel efficiency and manufacturing via lower carbon methods.

render of a train frame
braiding machine

Ionisers have been used for many years in air cleaners. Air ionisers create negative ions using electricity and then discharge them into the air. These negative ions attach to positively charged particles in the room, such as dust, bacteria, pollen, smoke, and other allergens including airborne viruses. Increasingly, a number of published articles tell us that air ionisers are useful against airborne viruses including Coronavirus and Covid-19.

The research team are developing air ionisers to be built into the air-conditioning ducts on a train and other mass transit vehicles to create a virus-hostile environment. The team are also investigating the design and development of ionising and display systems to both generate the clean and update the passengers on the quality of the air. Fundamentally, TDI see the implementation of the technology as only part of the story – it is the way that public perception can be influenced through messaging and technology that will help drive a return to public transport.



The TDI team are developing low-cost track system for use with our Very Light Rail (VLR) and Light Road Transit (LRT) vehicles.  As vehicles get lighter, the infrastructure used to support the vehicles needs to develop in conjunction with those technological changes. The team are working with a local consortium of businesses to develop a new approach to track and guided roadway solutions.

In particular, we are focused on using modern sustainable materials and reducing carbon footprint by recycling the existing base materials where possible. The construction processes have been engineered to reduce weather dependent activities and provide a faster, less disruptive build sequence.


We are working with a Cambridge based start up to explore how this truly carbon negative technology can be incorporated into our vehicles. This project aims to prove a realistic first liquid-air powered engine as a strategic alternative to the lithium battery for powering buses and trucks.
Liquid Air Energy Storage systems are increasingly being developed for grid scale peak-demand smoothing and energy storage.

Liquid air is a sustainable and clean alternative to lithium batteries, where lithium itself is an expensive imported resource which also results in polluting mining by-products and recycling issues. On a similar basis, the opportunity to power buses and trucks by the liquid air engine is substantial, provided that the technology can be suitably proven.

This project aims to design, build and demonstrate the first realistic liquid air power unit that could form the basis of a powerpack for mass transit vehicles and a strategic alternative to lithium batteries. The output from this project, as well as an operating liquid air engine, will be a digital model that will allow us to extrapolate the technology up or down in order to satisfy many -applications.
Once proven on the bench the consortium intends to build this engine into an encapsulated electric powerpack which could be implemented in a mass transit vehicle.

Render of Liquid Air Energy Storage systems.


The team are all recent graduates who are spending their first-year in TDI living “outside the box” developing ideas and exploring serendipitous approach to problem solving.  This is TDI’s take on a skunkworks – they have access to our world-leading experts and creative thinkers but are encouraged to follow their own path and develop their own thinking.

Current projects include:

  • Developing a mobility scooter that your grandchildren would be proud to use!

  • Digital support for mass transit mobility

  • Senior wellness technologies

As pioneers in mobility, much of our work is to challenge conventional wisdom and our team has a particular pedigree in developing new innovations.