Future Connected Rail

techUK has been participating in discussions with colleagues in the rail community - in particular RSSB, RDG, Network Rail and DfT - on what can be done between the rail sector and the telecoms and ICT industries to bring about improved digital connectivity for both rail operations and passengers. In terms of passengers (including freight), the vision is to provide a comparable mobile connectivity experience to that experienced in the general urban environment and to ensure that that the connectivity meets future customer demands. In terms of rail operations, the aim is to enable ‘intelligent trains’, running trains closer together, improved scheduling, minimising disruption and increased productivity.

A number of background factors make this is a particularly important juncture to be tackling these challenges:

  • Increasing and untapped opportunities from improved (digital) connectivity to drive benefits for passengers and the rail community
  • Government policy priority and requirements of train operator franchise agreements
  • Need to ensure UK remains a leading location for business, post Brexit - a key prerequisite for which being continuously striving to develop excellent connectivity
  • Emergence of a range of innovative digital technology and network opportunities

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There was a strong sense from the room that this was a moment to be grasped to create a collaboration between the rail and digital stakeholders to develop momentum towards digital rail connectivity fit for the 2020s.

Through the 'Future Connected Rail Stakeholder Forum', techUK is bringing together the telecom/ICT industry stakeholders, wireless technology suppliers and academia to provide cross-industry expertise on improved digital connectivity for rail operations as part of a collaboration with the users (the rail industry and policy stakeholders).

techUK’s new ’Future Connected Rail Working Group’ is a techUK member-only working group which will identify and analyse new business opportunities and to provide a review on current and emerging technologies by closely engaging with the rail sector. It will further facilitate new RD&I activities and business opportunities focused on future connected train and customer communications requirements.

In broad terms we are planning to organise the work over the next 12 months along the following 4 themes:

  • Identify the economic case for improved digital connectivity for passengers
  • Review existing and emerging technology options for improving digital rail connectivity
  • Develop a roadmap for improving digital connectivity for passengers
  • Promote innovative applications and services (exploiting the connectivity) and innovative business models

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