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Innovating and harnessing technology

Digital railway

Network Rail, train operators and the supply chain will work together in 2020 to ensure new signalling systems and trains are digital or digital ready. The latest in rail technology helps:

  • safely run more trains every hour because the trains are closer together, meaning more services and more seats
  • give passengers instant updates about the arrival of their services and where to get on for free seats and accessible toilets
  • cut delays by allowing trains to get moving more rapidly after disruption

Signals go digital

  • In the next 15 years two-thirds of the rail network’s signalling system will be replaced
  • All signal renewals will be digital or digital ready, starting in 2024
  • Digital doesn´t happen overnight - more than 4,000 trains and 20,000 miles of network will need to be fitted out and upgraded

Some of the latest in rail technology is already operating: digital train control is deployed on the Thameslink core through central London. Traffic management tools are being used on Network Rail’s Western, Anglia and Wales routes to recover services more quickly when disruption occurs. Work to start fitting the UK’s freight fleet with digital train controls will start in 2022, providing around 150 skilled engineering jobs in the UK.

Smart trains

The introduction of new technology means that passengers have more information at their fingertips as more trains start to ‘talk’ to passenger information systems. Passengers will know whether the toilet is working and accessible, which carriages have spare seats based on footfall and reservations, and even where to stand on the platform to board the train. This technology will become more common in 2020 as hundreds of new train carriages are rolled out on the network.

Case study:

New camera recognition technology, which identifies each carriage, is being piloted by Arriva Rail London. This aims to provide better information on the number and order of carriages on trains and when carriages need to be cleaned

Chiltern, Grand Central, LNER and parts of Northern and ScotRail have been using GPS-driven systems to better inform passengers about their service. GPS provides more accurate train journey information to passengers and will reduce the likelihood of train delays increasing sharply at short notice.

GPS data will be also used in National Rail´s ‘Alert Me’ service, as well as a Facebook Messenger tool designed by Zipabout to personalise information for passengers, including suggestions for alternative routes during disruption.

What big changes do you want?

Rail companies are calling for big changes but what matters to you?