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since privatisation, we’ve seen growth of 40% in passenger demand. Whilst that dropped a little during 2007-08, during the fi nancial crisis, passengers are now back to where they were before and are forecast to grow a further 30% in the short- to medium-term.

There’s increasing demand for services into our cities. To some extent by luck, rail is seen as the environmentally-sustainable transport solution for the world. It’s in a prime position in terms of tackling some of the environmental issues we face. How- ever, I don’t think that anybody planned that benefi t.

Our railway doesn’t run on real-time infor- mation. Things like passenger information systems are based on planned data, not re- al-time. In every other aspect of our lives, real-time data is driving decisions and af- fecting the way we live our lives.

Since privatisation and the emergence of Network Rail, we’ve seen unprecedented levels of investment in the railway to re- new assets that are seen as life-expired, but that’s not driven down into signifi cant OPEX savings, which other privatised util- ity companies have seen.

The railway still has extremely high levels of government subsidy, and that’s not seen as sustainable. We need to solve our trans- port problems, increase capacity, but at the same time drive down the operating costs of the railway.

Historically there’s been a clear distinction between main line, suburban and mass transit railways. To solve some of the trans- port problems we face today, we’re seeing a lot of those technologies merge together. We’re seeing the emergence of schemes like Thameslink, which could be seen as a main line railway because it’s transporting people from King’s Lynn right down to the south coast, but it also serves the commut- er market in and around London, and then through that central core, they’re looking to achieve 24 trains per hour. It’s a main line, a suburban railway and a mass transit system.

With Crossrail, from east to west instead of north to south, it’s a similar principle: get- ting people from the west of the UK over to the fi nancial centres in the east. Again, we’ve got elements of Crossrail on the Great Western Main Line, and elements that are very much a metro-type service, with 30 trains per hour.

The main line railway faces four big chal- lenges.

How do we get the capacity of the network up? What are the technologies that are go- ing to enable huge gains in capacity, that further 30% we anticipate? How do we drive down costs at the same time? How do we deliver for a lot less money? If I knew the answers I’d be a wealthy man.

Cars and carbon

The demand for environmentally-sustain- able forms of transport is not going to go away, and neither is the need for a much better customer experience. Using real- time data from across the railway will in- form passengers, will inform operators so they make better decisions.

Rail is going to face increasing competition. The automotive industry will get its act to- gether. The cost of motoring will fall as they look at environmentally-sustainable trans- mission methods. There’s the emergence of electric and hybrid technologies, and things like road-trains are being invested in – op- erating cars automatically, close together, to boost the capacity on the road networks.

We’ve got to counter that by delivering greater capacity for lower cost with less en- vironmental impact and while enhancing the customer experience.

The railway for the last 10 years has been very focused on asset renewal. Things as- sessed as life expired are removed and re- placed with something that’s the same, just slightly newer technology. But we’re not re- ally delivering a benefi t. We’re just replac- ing something with something newer but the same.

We need to make a step change. Not an ef- fi ciency gain here and there, but making a big transformational change to improve the way we use data on the railway, to enhance decision-making, and boost the capacity of the network. We need integrated, multi- modal transport solutions, so you’re bring- ing together the coach networks, the use of cars, and providing a complete multi-mod- al solution for transport.

I defi nitely see growth in the area of merg- ing main line, suburban and metro sys- tems. The UK is leading the way there with the Crossrail and Thameslink schemes. When they’re successfully delivered, I think they will become a blueprint for the rest of the world.

Spot the difference

Technology has moved on over the last 60 years. If you look at the fi rst computers in the 1940s and 1950s, and look at a com-

The UK often takes a lot of criticism about the investment made in R&D. I concur with Steve Jobs – I don’t think it’s about how much money you’re investing. It’s about

rail technology magazine Jun/Jul 11 | 33

If we look at the telephone from the 1950s, it looks very different from the smart- phones of today. No longer is the telephone just something for making calls; it’s a com- puter, it’s a shop window allowing you to buy anything, it’s a credit card, it’s a board- ing pass for an airline fl ight. Fundamental- ly, the phone does not fulfi l the same func- tion it started out doing 60 or 70 years ago.

However, if we look at a 1950s railway signal, when coloured lights were fi rst in- troduced – and then move onto today – it hasn’t really changed a great deal. We’ve innovated in that we no longer use fi lament bulbs, we use LEDs: but that’s no major change.

Even when we come to control centres, the 1950s control centre and panel with an operator, is not so different from today. Instead of having a panel, it’s been moved onto a VDU screen. The problem is that if there was an incident in the old system, the driver could get some help and someone else could come and help solve the pertur- bation. Today, he has to do it on his own, so what we’ve got today isn’t actually as good as what we had in the 1950s.

By contrast, metros tend to be vertically in- tegrated in terms of the infrastructure and rolling stock. The control centre for a metro railway looks very different to a main line control centre. In a metro environment, data is pulled across from multiple sys- tems: tunnel ventilation, power control, signalling control, CCTV systems. All of that data comes into a central area used to improve the decision-making of the opera- tors and improve the operational running of the railway. As a consequence, we see that metro railways can realise high perfor- mance, high frequency, and high reliability.

Thinking inside the box

Steve Jobs once said: “Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”

puter today, you see things like the iPad, which has been a revelation – I didn’t know I needed one until I bought one. The way I interact with my life, the way I shop, the way I fi nd information, has been complete- ly transformed by that device. That’s what innovation does. It changes the way you do things, fundamentally.

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