Smarter rail for a digital age

Network Rail recently announced ambitious plans to upgrade the outdated Victorian rail transport system and it can’t come soon enough. With passenger numbers on the rise there is an urgent need for the railways to operate with greater efficiency and frequency.

Converting to digital railways will enable rail operators to schedule trains closer together while at the same time improving the level of operations safety and reliability. The increased frequencies will transport more passenger during peak commuting times when it is most needed thereby contributing to operational efficiency and creating much needed additional capacity.

15 year roll-out

Because almost two thirds of the signaling needs to be converted, it is estimated that it will take at least 15 years to have up to 70% of the railways operating on digital signaling. This opens up an opportunity to increase the future pipeline of work for railway contractors.

The good news is that it is already being rolled out on the Thameslink trains that operate through London Bridge. It is estimated that switching to digital signaling will create an additional capacity for 40 000 more people on these routes alone. London’s Kings Cross and Waterloo station will be next to come online and in the future the Digital Railway Strategy is planned to roll out across the Pennines by 2024.

This all forms part of the government’s modernization of the rail network which has been allocated a budget of £48bn between 2019 and 2024 for maintenance, upgrades and renewals.

Everyone wins

Digital technology and innovation offers a solution for bridging the productivity gap that has plagued the industry for years. Digital scheduling and monitoring can help ensure that rail services to run on time more often, and operate with greater frequency and efficiency. This will generate a better return on investment for private investors and ultimately benefit taxpayers as it means public funds allocated to rail projects will be utilized more effectively.

Commuting passengers will benefit from shorter journey times, increased frequency and capacity and more efficient rail operations, but they will not be the only beneficiaries. The faster more frequent services will be able to contribute to improved logistics for commerce and industry. Most of all the infrastructure sector is set to benefit as technology in incorporated into more aspects of railway development and upgrades and the pipeline of work expands to accommodate these changes.