Putting analytics at the heart of the rail network

By the editorial team.

In all areas of transport, the rail industry stands out for the levels of public criticism it receives around the quality of its services. A recent poll from YouGov which surveyed 1,087 commuters found 37% felt national rail services had worsened in recent years. In contrast, only 8% said it had improved.The industry’s default response to criticism is that the network needs constant investment for innovation. This is somewhat true and can be evidenced by a £10bn injection package. Network Rail commented, “We have the safest, fastest growing network in Europe and the railway is more reliable now than it has ever been."
Against this backdrop, making arguments in favour of the rail network and encouraging investment in its future is no easy task. Yet it’s high time the industry started putting its case forward for digital transformation as the key to winning customer confidence.

In an age where exciting debates around the potential of driverless vehicles and connected aircraft are dominating the news agenda, isn’t it disappointing that rail makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons? It’s clear that we’re missing a trick and being shown up by other areas of our sector.

Time and time again the rail industry struggles to articulate an innovative vision for the future of its services. When was the last time we heard about what journeys will be like with the Internet of Things, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence playing a role in the passenger experience?

Technology innovation should sit at the heart of building a modern, intelligent rail network. It will also go a long way towards building a network designed around the needs of the passenger. 

When your customer base repeatedly cites delays, cancellations and overcrowding in relation to your services, it’s time to recognise that steps need to be taken to improve customer experiences. It’s also time to realise that these improvements cannot be made without the right software platforms in place.
It’s almost impossible to completely eradicate all delays, which can be triggered by a variety of external factors including weather, faults or disruption. So when an incident occurs, isn’t it logical that you have a digital platform in place that can help you manage and navigate through adversity?

That’s why analytics is so critical to an effective rail network. With a digital platform in place that can exchange information and connect operating systems, decision-makers have the right information, when they need it, to ensure action is taken to improve services.

This is exactly what we are doing in conjunction with Digital Railway on the Western route. Our “Luminate” Traffic Management solution will provide all parties managing the railway with the same view of challenges and solutions and will consequently create “One version of the truth”.

An agile, cohesive approach to maximising capacity and minimizing disruption will deliver the levels of care and communication that customers expect from all of their interactions with service providers.

This approach will also help the rail industry prepare itself to play a key role in the future of smart cities. The ability of trains to provide transport to our great cities is critical for driving economic growth and job creation. So let’s ensure these journeys are properly managed through digital platforms and offer connectivity for passengers when they use the rail system.

Everyone wants to see better railways and everyone wants customers to trust and value the services they use. Reversing the tide of criticism starts with recognising that customer experience is critical to winning support and securing trust in services.

So let’s start making a positive case for the railway, by painting a vision for increasingly connected journeys that are powered by analytics. Doing so will improve public confidence in the rail network and give everyone a vibrant vision for the future of our industry.

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