- The global rail industry is rapidly increasing its digital capabilities through partnerships with specialized tech providers and startups.
- The global rail transport market is expected to reach USD 308.91 Bn in 2023 with investments in developing hybrid and autonomous trains.
- Key trends across 2023 are high-speed rail, predictive maintenance, decarbonization, and IoT.
- TCS, Capgemini, and Accenture are service providers delivering asset management, machine vision-based rolling stock inspection, and intelligent transport systems.
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Many countries took advantage of new technologies to improve their networks. The recent COVID-19 pandemic reduced passenger numbers, allowing operators time to implement changes.
The new era of innovation has made train technology relevant once again. Advanced algorithms and data analysis software will help railroads use vast volumes of data to improve safety, dependability, and customer service.
Next-gen automation technologies will lessen human errors and limits on railroad operations, thus boosting safety and efficiency.
Federal rules must allow and encourage railroads to develop and deploy important technologies that benefit citizens, American enterprises, and the U.S. economy. The US has purportedly used positive railway control, and India has sped up trains on crucial routes.
Here are some trends we will see beyond 2023.
Emphasis on sustainability
People are considering their travel footprint. 3 out of 5 Gen Z passengers are willing to adjust their transportation habits to be more sustainable.
Rail is one of the greenest modes of transport, and operators will capitalize on this. Shipping firm Maersk’s solution will save 9,100 tonnes of CO2 annually for 85% of Germany’s rail network.
Hydrogen trains will advance. Alstom’s Coradia iLint has gained traction in Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands and will be the cornerstone of Canada’s new hydrogen strategy.
A move toward automation
Automation of railway operations could increase network efficiency and safety, allowing more commodities to be moved by rail and lowering highway capacity, fuel use, and air pollution. Positive Train Control (PTC) automates railroad operations by reducing human error.
Next-generation PTC will know all trains’ whereabouts and safe spacing. With this information, railroads may safely increase train numbers and better control their closeness, improving network speed and fluidity.
Automation improves railroad safety and efficiency. Today, automation of inspection technologies and PTC operate on 100% of mandated PTC routes, making railroad operations safer and more efficient.
An algorithm examined the track geometry of 1,500 curves in a few hours. It would have taken four people ten months to do so manually. Railroads can conduct frequent safety inspections, diagnose problems more reliably, and respond more rapidly while keeping workers safe.
Reliable train tracking and infrastructure maintenance
New technologies will be needed to monitor thousands of miles of rails as railways expand. Data and AI will improve services and save expenses.
Indian Railways employs AI and data analytics across operations from passenger ticketing to freight operations to help with maintenance. UK’s HS1 Ltd. will utilize augmented reality to monitor assets on the high-speed train and at London’s busy St Pancras Station.
Technology will save fuel and reduce expenses for operators while boosting safety, especially with automatic train control. Increased automation will affect how operators optimize their workforce.
Analyzing Opportunities for Stakeholders in Digital Railway
The global supply chain revolution has made logistics more challenging than ever. Rail will face competition from autonomous trucks and on-demand mobility options.
Emerging digital technologies like 5G, big data, the Internet of Things, automation, AI, and blockchain are transforming railways and are presenting OEMs and service providers with opportunities.
Digitization’s impact on the railroad industry can’t be overstated. Digital technology disrupts nearly every aspect of railroad operations.
- Rolling stock – Automation makes trains smarter and safer with self-diagnosis and real-time geolocation tracking.
- Digital control and signaling systems enhance reliability and performance and eliminate antiquated railway signal boxes and heavy copper wires for infrastructure/asset management.
- Railway infrastructure – IoT, sensors, and devices provide obstacle and damage detection, preventive maintenance, and links to government agencies, logistics providers, transit modes, and other systems.
- Communication – 5G, LTE, and cloud infrastructure (backend) will help handle massive data volumes and eliminate cumbersome rail-side hardware.
- EAM systems – Faster self-learning algorithms in Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) systems will make for efficient dispatching, routing, and maintenance schedule.
- Smart monitoring and surveillance are how operators control dangers, intrusions, and driving behavior.
- Performance enhancements – Digital solutions improve train reliability, the efficiency of operations, train service, and maintenance.
Current Market Overview of the Railway Industry
Railway stakeholders are developing advanced robots, AI/ML platforms, sensors, biometrics, drones, surveillance, and security systems. Major solution suppliers and service providers include Seimens, Alstom, Huawei, Bombardier, ABB, and Mitsubishi.
There are many initiatives, along with the rolling stock, signaling, and aftermarket services.
Case 1 (Rolling stock) – AKIEM partnered with Taxirail to develop autonomous light trains to provide on-demand services on France’s regional lines. Wabtec agreed to support Delhi-Meerut RRTS with critical components.
Case 2 (Signaling) – Thales and Network Rail will develop and implement a new signaling communications system and Online Key Management System (OKMS) to transform the UK’s rail system.
In another case, Alstom partnered with Red Hat to transform its railway IoT devices into a flexible and more modern solution for data acquisition and edge processing.
Case 3 (Aftermarket services) –Knorr – Bresme got the contract for the remote condition monitoring of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC) on large regional train fleets in the UK.
The Americas region has the highest technology footprint, with the most workforce working from associated OEMs, namely Honeywell, FedEx, Bombardier, General Dynamics, and CAT, among others. Key focus areas include emission reduction, predictive maintenance of railway infrastructure, and high-speed rail.
Draup conducted a detailed analysis of the rail transport industry. The report has information on technology focus areas, challenges in the sector, industry outlook, opportunity areas for service providers, and more.
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