Rail freight

27.04.20

RIA 'Digital Journeys' - Day Three Webinar Series

The potential for better use of data to improve the prospects for rail freight came under the spotlight during day three of the Railway Industry Association (RIA’s) ‘Digital Journeys for Rail Passengers & Freight’ webinar series.

Greg March, head of planning and resource at Rail Operations Group, and Prof Amar Ramudhin, director of the Logistics Institute at the University of Hull, were both enthusiastic about how increasing the use of data and, crucially, finding the best ways to put that data to use could help shift freight onto Britain’s rail network. 

RIA’s online event, attended by more than 110 delegates, was entitled ‘Better Use of Rail Freight’ and opened with Greg March outlining how road use for freight has grown over the past decade, driven by the e-commerce boom and companies such as Amazon. Delivery-van use in particular has ballooned in recent years. 

Rail freight is largely, March said, “incredibly competitive” and offering “pretty tight” margins. Operators need to “take the plunge and sink capital investment in – without guaranteed volumes that’s a challenging thing to do”.

March outlined his vision for rail freight’s fightback, including Rail Operations Groups’ Project Orion, a high-speed logistics initiative; working with Porterbrook Leasing on re-purposing Class 769 Bi-Mode trains and the new ‘class 93’ hybrid locomotive; a new bogie design for high-speed inter-modal services; and automated vehicles for loading.

But many challenges remain, including an industry-wide need to understand the rail network’s capacity and capabilities. Too much of the information that dynamic freight operators need to access remains paper-based, he said.

Prof Ramudhin described the Network Rail+ Integrated Digitised Rail Infrastructure Platform – an initiative with the potential to help with freight planning, including tackling the paper-based complexity referred to by March.

NR+, Prof Ramudhin said, combines the many information sources required for planning rail movements into a single database that is “intuitive and interactive”. It allows the instant identification of potential freight routes and potential engineering access conflicts. NR+ has application programming interfaces (APIs), and Prof Ramudhin encouraged SMEs to engage with the project.

RIA’s webinar also included two ‘elevator pitches’. Yves Sterbak-Dicke described his firm Protostellar, a spin-off company majority owned by Thales Group that provides live status reports for freight, for example digital check-in and check-out at small- to medium-sized ports.

Lucy Prior of 3Squared Ltd discussed her Sheffield-based firm’s software expertise and its applications in rail, for example with operations and safety.

She summed up the overall data challenge in observing that while a sizeable volume of data is increasingly being captured, the industry needs to start using the data “a lot more smartly”.
Prof Ramudhin said he was in “ongoing conversations” with Network Rail about the best way forward in respect of digital data but that the industry faces a “huge challenge” in working with “legacy systems”. As an example of the challenges of gathering consistent data, he said that some train stations have different names on different systems.

Reference was also made to the current coronavirus pandemic, with March saying: “It almost took the COVID-19 crisis to put freight at the forefront. We need to make sure that once this crisis has passed, we don’t go back to situation where freight is in the background, and instead it is prioritised.”

Prior said COVID-19 may even “have accelerated somewhat” a trend towards “doing more with SMEs”, praising Network Rail’s SME engagement initiatives.

READ MORE: RIA 'Digital Journeys' - Day One Webinar Series

READ MORE: RIA 'Digital Journeys' - Day Two Webinar Series

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

HS2 installs new bridge over M42 in just two days

10/08/2020HS2 installs new bridge over M42 in just two days

A 65-metre bridge was installed in just two days and ahead of schedule as the motorway opened 22 hours earlier than planned. The works near ... more >
HS2 publish annual equality, diversity and inclusion report

07/08/2020HS2 publish annual equality, diversity and inclusion report

Today (8 Aug) HS2 Ltd have released their annual report which details their equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work. The report also il... more >
Network Rail’s Southern Region completes installation of secure radio channels

07/08/2020Network Rail’s Southern Region completes installation of secure radio channels

A new digitally secure radio system has been successfully rolled out across Network Rail’s Southern region. As their Wessex route join... more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

29/06/2020On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

Following an independent audit, Sulzer’s Nottingham Service Centre has been accepted as part of the rail industry supplier approval scheme (RISAS). The accreditation reinforces the high-quality standards that are maintained by Sulzer’s network of independent repair facilities across the UK and further afield in its global network. ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

comment

The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >
Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

02/07/2019Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

Smart electrification is the way to boost clean energy resources, argues Leo Murray, director at 10:10 Climate Action. Contractors are clear... more >
Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

02/07/2019Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

The TCR Midlands conference is only days away and tickets are going fast for the sector event of the year at the Vox Conference Centre in Birming... more >

rail industry focus

View all News

interviews

Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he wo... more >