Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, and Network Rail have today launched the National Digital Railway Strategy and a 15 year roadmap for technological transformation across Britain's railway, which will bring benefits to passengers, railway workers and for the nation's economy. Considered a "world first", Europe's safest and fastest growing railway has replaced traffic light signalling with on-board digital train control. Network Rail CEO described the "aggressive roll-out" of the technology as a"fundamental technological change" that has not been seen since the 1960s when the railway changed from steam to diesel.
"Digital Railway isn't just a resignalling project...It's an opportunity to run the whole railway in a fundamentally different way."
Benefits to passengers include:
- Increased number of services without the disruption of heavy engineering work
- Real-time information customised for every passenger
- People living in urban areas can "turn up and go on a metro-style service" reminiscent of the tube rather than the railway
- Faster, more reliable journeys as a result of improved ability to predict and prevent failures on the network
Railway workers can expect to benefit from:
- Improved protection when working on the tracks
- Less time spent on tracks
- Career opportunities in a growing industry that includes digital skills
The wider national economy will benefit from increased mobility capacity of people and freight, as well as the "chance to lead the world in developing and using Digital Railway technology" which can translate into new export opportunities for the rail sector, and contributing to the Government's vision of a truly Global Britain.
Digital signalling technology is considered a more cost-effective alternative to replacing the entire network of existing infrastructure which was valued at around £20 billion.
Network Rail's Digital Railway vision is a promising sign that the rail sector is keen and capable of developing innovative, cost-effective solutions in a customer-focused environment.