ITALY: A hospital train proof-of-concept demonstrator is to be developed and tested under a project funded by the European Space Agency.

The Intensive Care Unit Train project brings together national train operator Trenitalia, the Puglia region and the Angel Group of technology companies, which includes space specialist SITAEL, railway supplier MerMec and other group companies such as engineering business EikonTech, cyber security firm Brightcyde and their partner Skycomm.

The ICUTRAIN hospital train proof-of-concept demonstrator is to be developed and tested under a project backed by the European Space Agency.

Trenitalia is to provide two standard coaches and access to railway facilities for the tests. The graphics produced as part of the ICUTRAIN project bid show a concept based on high speed train coaches, but Angel Group told Railway Gazette International that the initial trial will use conventional vehicles able to operate across Europe.

Angel Group companies will equip one coach as a ‘smart medical coach’, with satellite communication, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence technologies to facilitate remote medical analysis and consultations on the move, enabling onboard healthcare personnel to consult specialists quickly. The Apulia region will provide the medical equipment.

The second vehicle will be used as a support coach during testing, which is planned for the first half of 2021.

The hospital train project was selected from 130 ideas submitted in response to an ESA call for proposals to use space technology during the Covid-19 outbreak. The contest was organised under the ESA’s Space Solutions programme, and sponsored by Italian space agency ASI.

The promoters envisage that the hospital train could be used to transport patients requiring specialist care quickly, safely and at a reasonable cost. Suitably equipped vehicles could also act as field hospitals for disaster relief applications, being sent across Europe to the scene of emergencies such as earthquakes and floods.