Due to digitization, many processes and technologies will change across industries – but what effect will this have on the rail sector? A survey by ASTRAN revealed what safety experts and decision makers see as the top five trends in the rail market:
Will proprietary safety systems and solutions stay on top or be replaced by standardized alternatives? This is the question that market players currently see as the most important. Initiatives such as EULYNX show that standardized interfaces act as a crucial technological driver in the rail safety market – and they are therefore pivotal for the successful digital transformation of rail technology. Cost-efficient and easy-to-integrate systems based on global standards are required. While the costs saved through commercial off-the-shelf systems are a plus, the people surveyed saw the departure from vendor lock-in as a more important factor.
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Digital transformation is fundamentally changing how trains, infrastructure, and core processes are managed in the rail industry. Self-driving trains, smart maintenance, and connected logistics were inconceivable a few years ago – but they are now becoming a reality. Digital interlockings for controlling rail traffic are one of the most important innovations. With their help, it will be possible to locate trains in real time and adjust their speed. Decentralized control technology could manage an extensive rail network, independent of location. This would reduce maintenance costs, as a digital signaling system can replace up to 15 mechanical interlockings.
3. Increased mobility
There are already numerous technological innovations in the rail industry that ensure quick, comfortable, accessible, and safe transport for millions of people every day. However, especially in metropolitan areas, populations are growing rapidly. By 2030, around of the world’s population will live in cities. Solutions are needed in order to meet the heightened demand for mobility – and this is especially true in rail transport.
4. Increased environmental awareness
Over 90 percent of rail traffic runs on electric power already. As a climate-neutral way to travel, rail transport has a significant edge in the fight against climate change. But according to a recent study by the Öko-Institut (Institute for Applied Ecology), rail transport’s environmental advantage over cars is set to dwindle. This is due to higher energy prices and energy-intensive customer demands such as air conditioning and on-board entertainment. Efficient technologies are expected to help lower energy costs in the future.
5. Improved political framework
From building infrastructure to funding innovation, politicians need to support digital transformation in the rail sector and establish a fair framework for properly functioning transport markets. One example of this is to alleviate pressure on rail freight transport by reducing, and eventually abolishing, tax on electricity. At present, rail freight is under increasing pressure in the fierce competition against road freight.