News Editor

Back in the early 1980s British Rail ran a high-profile TV advertising campaign proclaiming ‘The age of the train’.

Back in the day, Inter City 125 trains were cutting an aerodynamic swathe of rail modernity across the UK.

How things have changed since then.

If you’re in Madrid, for example, you might want to swing by the High Speed Rail World Europe conference, whose organisers would have you believe that 2010 is the year of high speed rail.

Taking place between 8-10 November in Madrid, the marketing blurb says high-speed rail is at the ‘precipice of huge growth’ with over 20 countries across nearly all continents exploring how high speed rail will be introduced in their countries.

In a survey, the organizers found that funding and financing represented one of the top three challenges facing high-speed rail.

A funding and finance session on day one of the conference will look at Britain’s HS1, the concession for which was sold last week to a consortium of Borealis Infrastructure and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan for a cool £2.1bn.

Chaired by HS1 president Paul Chapman, delegates will consider whether private investment in high speed rail projects is a realistic strategy for financing. Other points to ponder include whether sustainability can be achieved, based on HS1’s financial performance.

An early session entitled High Speed Rail of the Future on day two will look at the main differences between traditional wheel-on-rail systems and maglev, given Britain’s high-speed rail expansion plans.

Chaired by Dr Alan James, CEO of Ultraspeed, delegates at this session will also consider the key competitive advantages of maglev compared to the High Speed 2 proposals. Finance comes into play too and delegates will consider how high speed rail can be financed privately without tax-payer input.

From rail to space and news that Northumbria University is to host first UK Space Biomedicine Association workshop on ‘Space Exercise Countermeasures and Post Mission Rehabilitation’ this Saturday.

Health risks associated with space travel include muscle deterioration due to the lack of gravity. The workshop will focus on research and science innovations that can help to counteract muscular atrophy and other physical ailments suffered by astronauts in space flight.

The workshop will coincide with the development of an international consortium that aims to encourage collaboration in order to strengthen the scientific foundation of space mission related rehabilitation programmes. Sharing the knowledge of movement control deterioration and muscle imbalance suffered by astronauts will inform understanding and treatment of muscle atrophy here on Earth.

Wednesday (Nov 10) sees Low Carbon Best Practice Exchange taking place in Harrogate. The event is designed to provide an effective way for executives involved in reducing carbon emissions to learn from one another and advance their own carbon reduction initiatives.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are on the agenda between 8-11 November as the Royal Aeronautical Society hosts ‘Towards Commercial Exploitation of Unmanned Aircraft’.

This conference is the second of a series of annual conferences that addresses the obstacles and opportunities for the routine national and international commercial exploitation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Proposed themes include access to airspace, visual line of sight operations using light UAS, the commercialisation of UAS and UAS content in aerospace degree courses.

Over in Denmark the Risø Energy Day 2010 will address non-fossil energy technologies in 2050 and beyond.

The organizers will release and present Risø Energy Report 9. The report will ask: which non-fossil energy technologies will meet energy demands by 2050, including emerging technologies; what will be the implications for the energy system; and how far have today’s non-fossil energy technologies evolved in 2050?

The organizers say they will introduce attendees to PhD students plus Danish and international speakers with marked viewpoints on the future international sustainable energy scene with regard to politics, global economic development and business opportunities.

Briefing finishes with news that the International Energy Agency releases World Energy Outlook 2010 tomorrow.

WEO-2010 will show how emerging economies – led by China and India – will increasingly shape the global energy landscape; what role renewables can play in a clean and secure energy future; and what removing fossil-fuel subsidies would mean for energy markets, climate change and state budgets.