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Digital Railway business case available within months

Outline business cases for Network Rail’s Digital Railway programme will be available in early 2015, it has been revealed. 

The programme includes a complete overhaul of signalling as well as new digital technologies for passengers and the rail workforce. 

During CP5 there will be efforts made to digitise both passengers and the workforce. For passengers this will include broadband data on trains, eTicketing, dynamic pricing and better travel information. For the workforce this will revolve around effective working and continuous improvement enabled by new technology.

In CP6 and CP7 there will then be an accelerated roll-out of in-cab signalling via ETCS to remove conventional signalling so that more trains are controlled digitally on the existing infrastructure. 

Network Rail has ambitions that all this will be in place by 2029, delivering a “digitally enabled market” that optimises “use of capacity” in the future. 

At the rail infrastructure operator’s October board meeting, the minutes of which have just been released, Jerry England, group Digital Railway director at Network Rail, gave an update on the programme. 

He said: “This was a rail industry programme to maximise the benefit to the GB economy by proposing to accelerate the digital-enablement of rail transport. 

“This would have the advantage of freeing up significant capacity on some of our routes that are already at full capacity at peak times, that it would lead to significant improvements in both safety and reliability, as well as to bring together information and applications that will transform the customer journey experience.” 

At the recent Future of Rail Conference in London, it was explained that the Digital Railway plans are tied around the next three control periods, with Network Rail’s chief executive Mark Carne wanting the project completed in 15 years. 

It was stated that the rest of CP5 will be devoted to drawing up a plan, acquiring the needed technologies and preparing “a strong case for the rapid digitalisation of the network”. 

223 digitisation of the railway

 England added that there is “very strong” industry consensus regarding the overall vision and rationale for the Digital Railway programme. 

The Network Rail board agreed that the plan would benefit from early business case development. It was also noted that outline business cases would be available early in 2015. 

Mark Carne commented that whilst the team had developed early quantification of costs, savings and potential capacity increases, they were rightly being cautious at this juncture, as more detailed work was needed before there would be sufficient confidence to share these details more widely. 

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