Why data is key to enhancing UK rail services


Written by Martin Britton Director & Toby Lewis, , Operations Director at Redcortex (Part of TPXimpact)

The transformation of the British rail system has been a big talking point in recent times. Substantial developments have already occurred, including the introduction of modernised trains on networks throughout the United Kingdom, with additional rollouts anticipated in the near future.

These modern trains will have received a warm reception from travellers, especially in regions where outdated models have been in service for long periods of time. But despite some benefits being seen, operators are failing to harness the full capabilities of these new vehicles, constraining them from delivering the best services possible.


Utilising untapped data

The modernised trains that are being introduced onto our rail networks capture a wide range of data, a lot of which isn’t being used to its full potential. They are equipped with a range of technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT) sensors that monitor various parts of the trains and rail infrastructure, from counting passenger numbers in carriages, through to heat sensors which check track and break temperature to make sure they are at safe levels. 

If these data sets are effectively leveraged, they can deliver substantial benefits to rail operators to passengers. Building on our previous examples, the ability to gather information about passenger travel patterns through IoT sensors gives operators the ability to optimise the allocation of their train fleets, ensuring services have capacity and meet passenger needs.

Simultaneously, scrutinising track and brake temperatures in real-time presents a significant opportunity to reduce maintenance costs. By being able to immediately and proactively resolve issues before issues escalate, operators can prevent potential disruptions that might mean trains or railways need to be taken offline. 


Embracing digital expertise and training

Not all providers are unaware of the valuable data their trains gather and many do want to use it to improve their services. But they face challenges in doing so. The main problem is that they lack the tools and abilities to collect and analyse specific insights from their data and then make decisions based on what they find. This is largely because having access to large datasets is new to the industry.

If operators want to use their data to make services better, they need help. They need to be working with data experts who can help effectively capture the vast swathes of information they collect. These digital partners can create and implement solutions, such as AI analytic tools, that allow operators to easily gather and study their data, while at the same time use the findings to make smart decisions about their services.

While partnering with outside experts to implement data solutions like artificial intelligence can be beneficial, it’s not the only requirement for rail providers. Operators also need to be focussing on training and educating their staff, working with digital experts who can upskill staff to effectively understand and harness data. This way, they can ensure that employees have the necessary skills to make the most of datasets and make informed decisions from this information.

The upgrades and incorporation of new trains onto UK rail networks has already enhanced services and are expected to keep doing so. However, it’s essential for operators not to overlook the significant untapped potential within the data gathered by these trains to further enhance services. Through collaboration with experts capable of harnessing this potential, operators can develop more efficient and cost-effective rail services that benefit all stakeholders.

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