Disused Northamptonshire railway tunnel to become world-leading test facility for self-driving vehicles

Disused Northamptonshire railway tunnel to become world-leading test facility for self-driving vehicles Duncan is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years experience in journalism. Having launched his tech journalism career as editor of Arabian Computer News in Dubai, he has since edited an array of tech and digital marketing publications, including Computer Business Review, TechWeekEurope, Figaro Digital, Digit and Marketing Gazette.


A disused railway tunnel in Northamptonshire is set to become a world-leading test facility for the self-driving vehicles of tomorrow.

The 2.7km Catesby Tunnel has officially joined CAM Testbed UK, a global centre for the innovation and development of connected and self-driving vehicle technologies. Operated by Catesby Projects, official worldwide resellers of Catesby Tunnel, the first-of-its-kind facility will become the sixth test facility to join the network.

Catesby Tunnel boasts ideal conditions for all kinds of vehicle testing, combining high levels of repeatability with reality. The temperature, pressure and humidity in the tunnel remain incredibly stable throughout, and there is no wind or rain to compete with either.

Paired with its smooth surface (+/- 2mm of being planar), the tunnel nurtures an environment in which data can easily be gathered with a greater degree of confidence, allowing engineers to analyse the effects of tiny setup changes.

The hope is that this cornerstone of repeatabilty will prove extremely valuble to the testing of CAM technologies. The tunnel is also radio insulated, meaning it can be made to be totally dark, providing the perfect space for testing new technology in traditionally difficult-to-navigate conditions.

John Paton, Catesby Tunnel MD, said: “Catesby Tunnel is incredibly excited to become a member of CAM Testbed UK, joining a list of prestigious and innovative organisations that together demonstrate the UK’s broad capability for autonomous vehicle development.

“We can’t wait to begin working with new companies and promoting the UK as a global centre for developing connected and automated mobility technologies.”

Managed by Zenzic, the organisation set up by the UK Government and industry to champion and grow the nation’s UK Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) eccosystem, CAM Testbed UK is a comprehensive and coordinated set of world-leading facilities for modelling, simulation, testing and trial  deployment.

By expanding the collaboration between testbeds through the addition of Catesby Tunnel to its network, the organisation is aiming to cement the UK as a leading player in the global transport revolution.

Existing members include UTAC Millbrook – Culham and ASSURED CAV, which offer controlled testing facilities, as well as Smart Mobility Living Lab London and Midlands Future Mobility, which provide spaces for testing in a public environment. Completing the group is data exchange expert, Convex.

Mark Cracknell, programme director at Zenzic, said: “We are delighted to welcome Catesby Projects to our ever-growing CAM Testbed UK network. CAM Testbed UK was set up to help provide industry and academics with the facillities and support required to increase the technology readiness levels of new innovations that can help drive the sector forward and the addition of Catesby will further build on that.

“CAM Testbed UK provides an environment where technologies can be tested rigurously in situations that are as close to every-day driving conditions as humanly possible, speeding up development times while breaking down barriers to market deployment. It will provide a real boost to the industry.”

Jonathan Eaton, independent chair of CAM Testbed UK, said: “The UK verification and validation services for CAM technologies goes from strength to strength and we are keen to expand CAM Testbed UK to include other facilities that bring additional opportunities for companies to develop their products and services in the UK for this dynamic global market. Catesby Tunnel complements the offering of the other testbeds exceptionally well and I am thrilled to have them on board and look forward to working with John Paton (Managing Director) and the Catesby Projects team.”

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