UK-based train operator Northern is set to equip its fleet of 345 trains with light detection and radar (LIDAR) scanning technology in a bid to make journeys safer and efficient.

The train company will install horizon-scanning cameras on trains to identify infrastructure defects, environmental threats and other maintenance issues.

According to a company statement, these cameras leverage the same LIDAR process that was used by US space agency NASA to map the surface of the moon.

The initiative will also see the deployment of thermal imaging systems to monitor passenger load factors and to send information to service partners in case of an emergency.

The implementation of the new technology will help the trains to detect ‘bumps on the line’ when they pass over them and automatically send the GPS co-ordinates to the maintenance teams.

The externally mounted cameras will scan the roof of tunnels to identify loose bricks and alert the infrastructure safety teams, while the sensors will help in detecting energy saving opportunities on the route.

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Additionally, Northern will offer British Transport Police with access to its on-board CCTV systems. This will enable the officers to view on-board footage of its trains in real time and address potential security incidents.

Northern managing director Nick Donovan said: “This is the beginning of what we’re calling ‘Intelligent Trains’. With these modifications, our fleet won’t just travel the network, they will actively monitor and report back on issues that could have an impact on our operation.

“The result will be greater efficiencies in terms of resource allocation, faster responses in terms of maintenance programmes and an overall smarter – and safer – way of working.

“We are sharing details of this new software with other train operators so that passengers the length and breadth of the country can benefit from the approach we have pioneered in the North of England.”

The technology will be rolled out starting this July.