Hitachi: Bringing digital to life at InnoTrans

Source: RTM Aug/Sept 2018

Rolling stock may steal the spotlight at InnoTrans, but with soaring passenger demand and limited infrastructure, there is more to railways than just adding shiny new trains onto already-crowded networks. Nick Hughes, sales director at Hitachi Rail Europe, invites everyone at the event to see what the company has been doing to help push the UK rail industry into the digital age.

Every two years the world of rail flocks to Berlin to marvel at the latest innovations, learn from others’ experience and, of course, scout out the latest rolling stock. Naturally, rolling stock often grabs the limelight, and I am no different in making sure I spend time outside with the trains on show. However, this year I am sensing a shift in the industry. 

As people shun congested roads and bemoan airports outside of cities, we’ve seen rail passenger numbers soar. Whilst this is to be celebrated, it does pose a dilemma: there are only so many trains you can introduce before overcrowding yet again creeps up on you. 

So with record levels of rolling stock, a limited amount of track, and passenger numbers soaring, our system fears being at overcapacity once more. How do we ensure our networks remain reliable and efficient, confirming rail is the future for transportation? 

It is a problem Hitachi has been grappling with, and this year at InnoTrans, we can’t wait to show our solutions. 

Yes, we’ll have our new Caravaggio train outside, and of course will be talking about our Japanese bullet train heritage. Yet this year we are putting our digital railway offer centre-stage. Our stand will have immersive experiences to really make digital come to life. We want to break the misconception that digital railway is too abstract and hard to imagine. This year, we’ll be changing that. 

Most crucially of all, digital is not a luxury, but a necessity. Digital solutions are not for the distant future but needed right now. Reliable, faster and more customer-friendly railways are what passengers are calling out for. Every corner of the world is in need of effective digital solutions; that is why our global team will be on hand. Our large stand, shared with our colleagues from Ansaldo STS, will have endless gadgets to play with.

So here is what you can expect from Team Hitachi at InnoTrans.

From door to door: the power of digital 

We’ll be telling visitors how digital solutions shape the entire passenger experience. It starts at home, where their phone gives them notifications if their train is on time or running late. This information will come straight from the train itself to give them accuracy like never before. 

They arrive at the station, which, like many around the world, feels chaotic and busy from the sheer numbers using it. This can often be off-putting for inexperienced passengers. That is why our smart CCTV system will guide them to their platform. The system will monitor the flow of people moving, updating screens to ensure the station remains in orderly operation. The system will also ensure safety, detecting crime patterns and identifying possible suspicious packages. This aids the security team, now having more eyes and ears. Hitachi already has this in place in public spaces such as international airports, making it perfectly suited for busy stations.

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The ticket headache

We’ve all stood at ticket machines puzzled with so many options, and even the most informed of us will struggle to choose the right one. This is consistently cited by potential passengers as a reason not to use mass transportation. 

In a survey by consumer group Which?, only 1% could understand different ticket types for rail, whilst 70% of rail ticket machines still don’t tell passengers about the cheapest fare. If it is this confusing for rail, imagine trying to travel around a city via bus and tram too.

Smart ticket solutions remove this headache. A computer system will link up all modes of public transport and automatically work out the cheapest fare, so all you will need is a single card. 

Hitachi already has a system in use, helping to move millions of journeys every day in bustling Tokyo. Our system, however, is not constrained to just one city; in fact, it can work over every mode of transport in numerous cities. You can use it for a metro in one part of the country and a bus in another, all via one card and the cheapest fare.

Reliability, reliability, reliability 

Already on this journey we’ve had digital shape every stage, but the most important aspect of all is ensuring increased levels of reliability.

Smart maintenance is the bedrock of this goal. We fit over 40,000 sensors on our trains, detecting the performance of every component, down to the smallest part of a door or brake system. This means our maintenance teams can receive real-time updates, picking up any issues straight away. If urgent, our engineers can meet the train at the next station knowing exactly what to fix. 

This also means we can monitor long-term performance, assessing exactly when an overhaul is needed or when a component needs replacing before it encounters a fault. Some situations, however, are out of our control. Disruption, for example, can happen for a host of reasons and cause havoc on busy routes needing to move millions of people. 

This is why digital signalling is critical. Our Traffic Management Systems (TMS) have become renowned for their ability to move Japan, in particular the Shinkansen. Our TMS and data stations ensure Shinkansen achieves outstanding safety records all whilst moving at rapid speeds on congested routes. In fact, sometimes we only have two platforms in Tokyo to use for these famous trains, meaning a digital solution must run with unprecedented accuracy.

In the UK, our TMS will soon power the Thameslink core, allowing up to 24 trains per hour. 

These systems come into their own during disruption. They can reconfigure a timetable in record speed, ensuring passengers know what train they can use and recovering normal service using vast data banks of scenarios – all the while feeding information to passengers’ phones on the situation and the next available service. 

In the modern day, routes must have this capability along with in-cab digital signalling (ETCS) to make sure we get the most out of our limited track. 

Our InnoTrans stand will be shared with our partner Ansaldo STS, the world leader in digital signalling. With over 30 locations across every continent, it will have solutions for every need. We’ll be able to show how signalling will cut journey times, improve safety, and increase reliability. 

See for yourself 

I hope this has given you a flavour of what you’ll find on our stand. There will be plenty of hands-on experiences, and our global experts will be able to talk through our solutions. Whether you want to talk about bullet trains or digital signalling, we look forward to seeing you at this year’s InnoTrans.


Hitachi Rail will be on stand 304, hall 4.2 throughout the InnoTrans event in Berlin in September. Alternatively, visit:


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