Capabilities in detail The twelve capabilities can be summarised, together with a few examples, as: 1. Running Trains closer together. Delivered mainly by the ERTMS programme, this will increase the capacity of the railway. While the question has been raised whether ERTMS is the right technological solution, as it is now some years old, the industry believes that it is the correct choice but a work stream is underway to check this and keep it under review. ERTMS does have some advantages over the alternatives such as Positive Train Control and CBTC. In the telecoms industry, Ethernet and packet switching were introduced over 40 years ago, but they are flexible and scalable technologies that show no sign of becoming obsolete. The rail industry needs to make sure ERTMS is similar. 2. Minimal disruption to train services. Predictive and preventative maintenance, plus faster repair times when systems do fail, will improve the reliability and availability of the railway. Systems will require self- diagnostics, redundancy and to be adequately soak-tested before going live. A few years ago, F1 racing cars were inherently unreliable, but fast. Nowadays they are very reliable, and even faster and safer, so it can be done and rail now needs to adopt a similar approach. 3. Efficient passenger flow through stations and trains. Smarter ticketing and human-centred design will make moving through stations and trains easier and quicker, reducing overcrowding at busy stations. This is important and is an example of why the railway is a system of systems. It’s no good just increasing the capacity of trains and routes if people can’t move through stations. One example is that escalator reliability is just as important as control and communications systems reliability. 4. More value from data. Data collection and real-time information that helps rail staff to make better decisions and provides customers with useful and up-to-date information. Already this is happening with, for example, people using smart phones to find platform changes before they appear on station displays. In the future, real-time information such as the amount of car parking spaces available could inform passengers which station to use. 5. Optimum energy use. Intelligent distribution and energy storage technologies will deliver more cost-effective use of energy on the railway. Rail is already an efficient energy user when compared to other modes of transport, but there is so much more that can be done to build on this advantage and it is an area where perhaps rail can learn from the R&D in other industries. 6. More space on trains. More generous and flexible train interiors will better meet the different and changing demands of customers. An example is trains that serve airport terminals may need more luggage space than when on a commuter service. 7. Services timed to the second. Knowing the exact location and speed of all trains in real time will improve situational awareness, increase operational flexibility and allow for faster recovery from disruption. 8. Intelligent trains will be aware of themselves and their surroundings, knowing where they need to be and when, and able to automatically adjust journeys to meet demand. Could a future signalling system be based on intelligent trains? 9. Personalised customer experience. Providing customers with tailored information and services so that travel by rail becomes a seamless part of their overall journey. For example, this may be something like the Uber App for taxis, but for ordering a complete end-to-end journey with rail only part of the service. 10. Flexible freight. Trains designed to carry varying loads, combined with better planning and tracking capabilities, will increase flexibility and capacity for freight customers. Some parcel delivery organisations are looking to use drones to deliver parcels, but these would be restricted in town and city centres, locations that rail already serves with stations that could be used as collection points. 11. Low-cost railway solutions. Railway lines and trains which are designed, built and operated at low cost will make lightly used lines viable and allow rail to compete for new transport links. This could be the merging of light and main line rail, with more main line using the principles of metro operation and far lighter and more efficient rolling stock, together with simpler and cheaper signalling systems. Is there an opportunity for ETCS light or CBTC for captive routes? 12. Accelerated research, development and technology deployment. Enabling technologies to be more readily and rapidly integrated into the railway system by creating the environment for increased R&D investment, technology demonstration and removing barriers to the adoption of new technology. The CDP contains more detail, breaks down each capability into component parts and explains how it will all dovetail together to deliver the RTS. The publication of the plan is the start of the process and not the end. In the next few months, there will be more detail and tools produced to help evaluate the rail industry readiness level for new technology developments, and the CDP will be updated based on feedback from stakeholders. The message to the wider technology industry is: “This is what we believe we need, but if you have something better please let us know. We are ready to work with you to make the rail industry grow even further.” Written by Paul Darlington
National Infrastructure Commission chair Sir John Armitt said that firm decisions on the megaproject's timetable and funding should be made by the end of 2018.