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Leighton Buzzing! Live Labs launch the UK's first kinetic walkway

26 April 2021

In this blog, Jack Bowers from Central Bedfordshire Councils and Pavegen CEO Laurence Kemball-Cook discuss their launch of the UK’s first kinetic walkway at Leighton Buzzard train station. 

Laurence

Pavegen is thrilled to have been able to collaborate with Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) and Live Labs throughout this project. We are so pleased to be able to finally announce our newest installation at Leighton Buzzard station. Although the technology was put in place late last year, we could only launch now because of Covid restrictions. The objective has been to showcase the sustainable commitment being made by the Council, ADEPT and the Department for Transport through Live Labs, generate clean electricity and create an engaging experience. 

In a first for the UK, two of our clean electricity generating walkways have been installed right at the entrance to the station. As passengers walk across the walkway, the tiles compress slightly, capturing the kinetic energy generated from footfall every time people exit and enter the station. As this is happening, Pavegen technology transforms this energy into off-grid electricity, used to not only generate an engaging experience for passengers, but also to help charge devices such as phones and laptops via charging benches. 

Additionally, the project is helping to inform passengers, using clean energy to trigger a real-time data screen displaying communication messages to the public from the station. 

As the technology provider behind the project, we really want to help support CBC in getting people actively involved in forward-thinking initiatives such as this. With our technology, we believe the Council and Leighton Buzzard station are demonstrating how new innovations can contribute to decarbonisation, through captivating passenger experiences. Simply by requiring just a footstep to take part, we view the project as an innovative yet accessible opportunity for Leighton Buzzard to involve their passengers in a new and exciting way. Over time, we also expect the project to start incentivising a stronger, smarter community that is more aware of sustainability issues. 

As one of our first installations at a UK train station, we are expecting to see a lot of strong engagement from the public with this project, hopefully setting a new standard for future train stations, airports, bus stations and other transport hubs to come. 

Jack 

It feels like for the best part of a year the only form of entertainment has been getting outside for a walk, so perhaps it is a little ironic that the first Central Bedfordshire Live Labs trial to hit the ground involves the use of people’s footsteps.

Whilst the majority of people were staying at home in lockdown, CBC in partnership with Ringway Jacobs and Pavegen continued with the installation of the kinetic trial at Leighton Buzzard station.

It is a really engaging trial, and it’s that engagement which actually makes this part of CBC’s Live Lab so impressive and potentially groundbreaking. The data screen allows the user to see that their footsteps are having a positive effect on the environment, while being able to charge phones where the energy is generated can only help spread the word about the importance of sustainability.

The work on this installation has gone quite smoothly and any challenge with the design and installation was quickly worked around by the teams at CBC, Ringway Jacobs (RJ) and Pavegen. Unsurprisingly the biggest challenge has been navigating the lockdowns.With the message of ‘stay at home’, we took the decision as a project group and with the support of ADEPT, to hold off from publicising the launch. This meant that essentially the footways were on the ground but the public had no idea what they were for.

After weeks of waiting for the guidelines to change we were delighted that at the end of March we were able to host a site visit with colleagues from CBC, ADEPT, RJ and Pavegen in attendance, as well as MP Andrew Selous. 

The feedback on the day from the MP as well as our Executive Member for Community Service Cllr Ian Dalgarno, and or Executive Member for Sustainability Cllr Steve Dixon, was really positive. All of the respective politicians are keen to see the results of this trial and are already looking at new places we can install this technology.

The kinetic trial is actually the first of three CBC ADEPT Live Labs Trials. Following a successful bid, CBC secured a £1.05m share of £22.9m that the Department for Transport allocated to the Live Labs Programme. 

Following this trial, the Council will be testing thermal and solar initiatives at their Thorn Turn Highways Depot. These trials will use renewable energy sources to power the depot as well as acting as a de-icing solution at the Thorn Turn car park.