Keeping the travel promise: keys to ensure the resilience of rail

In 2021, the European Year of Rail, people around the world will step onto trains for the first time in many months, some perhaps with trepidation. As the European Commission’s (EU’s) Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy underlines post-COVID-19 measures, ensuring that transport systems are truly resilient against future crises must now be a key objective – and rail is at the heart of communities’ recovery. Building back public trust and confidence to travel again is critical. Adaptive strategies and approaches are required – and this is where digital technologies can make all the difference.

Automated controls

Clearly, a cornerstone of passenger trust is the core undertaking to provide a clean, safe and punctual journey. Given today’s ever-shorter planning cycles, intelligent fleet management – where the right train arrives at the right moment with the right crew – is crucial. And with the advent of automated train operation, this will increasingly be data-driven in real time. As the EU’s Strategy points out, “Europe needs to use digitalization and automation to further increase the levels of safety, security, reliability and comfort”. As part of its raft of initiatives are proposals to boost innovation and the use of data and artificial intelligence for smarter mobility.

Advanced digital control systems will clearly enable optimization and increased capacity – essential for reliable and comfortable passenger experiences. Drivers can be advised of the speed at which to travel in order to reach a given location at exactly the right time, helping to foster passenger confidence. Automated train controls eliminate variations in the way trains are driven. Operators can therefore predict much more accurately because they know the performance of each train, its speed-distance profile and its exact position.

Critical communications and collaboration

In a fast-moving operating environment, railway operators must also ensure that every staff member knows exactly what to do to enable the complex interplay of actions and reactions needed to ensure a smooth journey. Here’s where next-generation unified command center communication systems can make a major contribution by enabling much faster and easier collaboration between central control rooms and train crews in real time, as we have seen first-hand through our work with a European rail operator.

With critical command control security systems, immediate and effective responses to the slightest incident can be assured. It’s these systems that we installed in a European rail operator’s metro lines, to monitor movements on subway tracks, process automatic door closure incidents via video, and provide safety information to passengers via PA systems.

Safety and compliance

The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), the upcoming signaling and management initiative, will enable essential interoperability on the European rail network. It integrates a new control-command system with radio for voice and data communication and, critically, will enforce compliance from trains with speed restrictions and signaling status.

Operational decision-making and passenger safety can be further enhanced using video intelligence (with no need for new cameras), which incorporate machine learning and data analytics to give operators crucial assistance to pinpoint any risk and provide the necessary response. Video monitoring is just one part of a ground-breaking project on which we are working in partnership with Axione and Siemens. The project will supply, implement and maintain the multi-service network and video surveillance system for part of the Grand Paris Express, the largest urban transport project in Europe and a forerunner in shaping the standout passenger experiences of the future.

Fundamental transformation

Given that delays and crowding can seriously impact passengers’ choice of rail as recovery from COVID-19 takes shape, keeping the travel promise is more important now than ever. For passengers and operators, digital control systems together with advanced data and analytics are key to meeting today’s intense demands while driving down costs.

ERTMS, together with the upcoming new radio transmission subsystem, Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) in particular, is one of digitalization’s key enablers. Building on these, the EU argues that “overall, we must shift the existing paradigm of incremental change to fundamental transformation”. The Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy sets out a comprehensive and compelling case, together with a portfolio of comprehensive action. There is now an even greater focus on digital technologies to secure rail’s future as the safest and most sustainable way for people to travel.

Learn more about how Atos is supporting the railway industry, here

And access our on-demand recording of ‘Ensuring operational readiness and delivering economic benefits of ERTMS’, with guest speaker Jari Pylvänäinen – Project Director from Fintraffic Railway, discussing their digital transformation and ERTMS implementation plan.

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About Roel Zuidema
Global Lead for Rail and Ground Transport, Atos
Roel has worked in the Transport and Logistics industry for over 25 years. Over this period, Roel has built up extensive knowledge of urban and heavy-rail transport processes and business economics. Roel’s passion is to use this knowledge to be a trusted adviser for customers on how innovative technology will improve the urban transport and heavy-rail business from a customer engagement, transport management and asset management point of view. Digitalisation, automation, and data monetising are the key enablers Roel will apply in discovering new business opportunities and convert this into concrete achievements.