Rail Industry Focus


Digital Railway: four steps forward

Shortly before the general election was called, the Digital Railway team announced several major updates to its programme. RTM’s Luana Salles reports.

On 13 April, Digital Railway took the rail sector by surprise by revealing a series of updates, including an announcement that the Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) programme had entered a new phase – as well as more information on the government’s Industrial Strategy, the Cyber Security Strategy and a new industry-wide Programme Management Office (PMO). 

ECI programme 

The first phase of the ECI programme was successfully completed at the end of December, when nine companies from the digital rail supply chain came together across seven different workstreams to recommend changes to the way the industry works – as well as highlighting where savings on digital technology could be made. 

Work is still continuing to further develop many of these recommendations, but stage two of the programme has now commenced. Whilst the first phase revolved around the industry’s established supply network, Digital Railway said ECI 2 engages with more non-traditional suppliers, especially those from different sectors who will “be able to enrich” the digital programme in rail. 

Now composed of nine workstreams, including subjects like strategy development, product acceptance processes and telecommunication systems, the second phase is attracting expertise from companies considered to be leaders in their own sectors – such as automotive, aerospace, defence and electronics, for example. 

“Our aim is to draw on the best knowledge and experience from within and outside our industry, whether that be from academia, the wider industry or client organisations,” explained Stuart Calvert, ECI programme lead. “From the outset, I have been delighted with the way the workstreams have approached their respective tasks, each displaying a great deal of enthusiasm and commitment to the programme’s aims.

“Building on the success of the first stage of the programme, I’m now looking forward to the reports from each of the workstreams which will be delivered in May, and to working closely with colleagues across with Digital Railway programme (DRP) to see how new methodologies and new technologies might help us to deliver the core DRP objectives.” 

Rail and the Industrial Strategy 

Central government’s Industrial Strategy, released in January, set out how the UK is expected to deliver a highly-skilled post-Brexit economy, with rail featured throughout the document given its centrepiece importance to the country’s development. As well as promising support for bodies such as Transport for the North and Midlands Connect, the strategy also underlined the chancellor’s allocation of £450m to trial the deployment of digital signalling to boost capacity across the network. 

“Over the next 10 years, public and private investment in digital rail signalling will aim to cement UK leadership in a global market which will be worth over £30bn by 2020,” said the strategy. “To achieve this, we are developing a plan to introduce digital train control technologies on some of the UK’s busiest rail links, building on previous experience, and working closely with industry to maximise the opportunity the digital modernisation of railways offers for jobs and growth and the UK’s standing in a growing global market.” 

Digital Railway argued that it was encouraging to see how closely the strategy and the digital programme are aligned, with rail modernisation touted as a crucial driver for the growth of city-regions. The organisation said the strategy “not only underpins the DRP’s core objectives of providing an enhanced rail network through the use of digital technology, but also supports the approach we are taking to achieve these aims”. 

In particular, this includes supporting how the organisation wants to work collaboratively with the wider industry to transform the capabilities of the supply chain, as well as introduce new skills into the sector and embrace modern technology from within and outside the traditional scope. 

“Our approach of working widely across government, academia and the supply chain, as well as with leading suppliers from other industries, clearly resonates with the approach outlined in the Industrial Strategy,” Calvert commented. “In fact, realising the benefits from the DRP simply won’t be possible if we don’t embrace all these elements and draw on the skills, knowledge and ideas that are available to us.” 

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Becoming cyber-safe 

On the same day as these two announcements, the DRP also revealed it had been closely involved in developing the UK Railway Cyber Security Strategy, which seeks to ensure all areas of the sector are strengthened and proportionately managing their cyber security risks. 

The strategy brings together all key industry players and was funded by the DfT, undertaken by the RSSB and released by the Rail Delivery Group. Within Digital Railway, leaders had already developed a “well-established Security Management Plan” which shows how the organisation embeds security compliance within the national strategy using a mix of Information Assurance and Systems Engineering processes to identify and mitigate risks. 

“DRP has taken Network Rail’s SAF, which is a hybrid of Security Assurance, Systems Engineering and Safety-based approach, through the ERTMS Security Board’s Cyber Security Steering Group,” said the organisation. “DRP gained significant momentum to adopt this framework across industry as the UK standard for identifying security threats, vulnerabilities, risks and mitigations on operational technology. This framework has DfT and industry support. 

“Once tested on Thameslink Traffic Management System (TMS), Power SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) and LNE route, it is expected to be approved and fast-tracked into publication as a UK RSSB standard.” 

Overall, this work is the culmination of two years’ work between the DRP and industry stakeholders, during which time the organisation has specified security within ETCS and ERTMS requirements; helped shape and align security strategies and risk management tools; and provided security awareness training to partner engineering teams. 

Over the next few months, Digital Railway will start SAF-based risk assessments on digital systems already deployed, including TMS, and the fully integrated M9 solution, working with safety assurance teams to make sure that the organisation can then produce a robust security case fit for future railway. 

Integrating all team players 

In a quadruple-whammy of news, Digital Railway also revealed the first areas of priority identified by the eight-person industry-wide PMO, a group created earlier this year to ensure effective co-ordination, decision-making and collaboration across the many stakeholders involved in the delivery of the programme.

Captained by Patrick Gallagher, the PMO identified three core areas that could add industry-wide value and support. The first was the need to develop a fully-integrated industry schedule, designed to enable each group to see their role “in a much broader context at every stage”. The first draft of the schedule was published in late March. 

Secondly, the PMO argued that, due to the complexity of the DRP, it was necessary to clarify the role of governance to ensure decision-making didn’t become “a slow and cumbersome process” – but rather “painless, fast and efficient”. The organisation is currently running workshops with stakeholders to define roles, responsibilities and the most appropriate governance structure after the Digital Railway business cases are approved. 

Lastly, it was seen as essential to simplify the change control process in order to make it a useful tool “rather than a burden”. Work has started with partners to develop and implement new simplified processes. 

“Now that we better understand the key expectations and requirements of our stakeholders, we have absolute clarity in our role and are working hard to develop and deliver an effective service to the wider programme,” said Gallagher. “As we continue to work closely with the whole industry to ensure we provide the best possible support and advice, we are now also turning our attention to a number of other key areas, including risk management and quality assurance.”

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