The Railway Industry Association (RIA) believes the time is “ideal” to roll out digital technology on the UK’s railways.
This is the opinion of the Association’s Chief Executive, Darren Caplan, following the publication of the Digital Railway Strategy by Network Rail and the Department for Transport, which will see all new trains and signalling made either digital or digital ready by next year.
As technologies continues to push forward at pace, embracing these to make the railway digital is crucial in the battle to make this transport more productive and economically viable.
With new trains that are digital or digital ready, there will be more seats for passengers, while making signalling digital ready will increase the number of services and cut delays.
And as the main industry trade group for railway equipment manufacturers in the UK, the RIA has a vested interest in the quality of the railway.
Darren Caplan welcomed the Digital Railway Strategy but also made it clear that existing systems need to be made fit for purpose, if the industry is to fully enter the digital age.
He said: “We live in a digital age and rail should be at the forefront of the government’s plans to modernise major transport infrastructure.
“With almost two thirds of signalling needing to be replaced in the next 15 years, this is the ideal time to transform the railway through new technology. Shifting to digital can increase capacity on the network and also cut journey times and costs, to the benefit of passengers and the taxpayer.
“Rail industry suppliers are more than up to the task of delivering this shift to digital, and we urge the government to ensure there is a visible and consistent pipeline of work, so the sector can plan, upskill and invest in the exciting challenge which lies ahead.
“Whilst the digital upgrade is implemented, it is important that existing conventional systems are maintained too.
“So we ask the government and Network Rail to continue supporting suppliers of legacy signalling products and services, as we migrate from traditional signalling to digital in the years ahead.”