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From analogue to digital: the revolution transforming our railways

Posted by: Kate Walker

Get your career on track with a role in rail. Why? Because the global rail industry is in the midst of a digital revolution, opening up a wealth of lucrative opportunities for individuals with the right skills.

Consider the following:

  • The number of people travelling by train is set to double in the next 25 years.
  • The rail sector generates £3.4 billion for the UK economy each year.
  • Globally the rail industry is experiencing a boom with growth expected to be 2.7% a year, reaching £128 billion by 2019.
  • The UK government has committed to spend over £38 billion to improve and modernise the UK rail network by 2019.
  • Major projects, either underway or scheduled, include: HS2, the TransPennine electrification, Crossrail, and the Northern Hub rail link upgrade programme amongst others.

But arguably the most important and exciting development is the emergence of the ‘digital railway’ concept.

Digital rail will see the UK adopt modern digital signalling and train control within the next 25 years. Why digital? Because proven digital technology will make the UK’s rail infrastructure more productive, with a slew of other benefits:

  • Faster, cheaper and safer trains thanks to digital train controls.
  • The introduction of Train Management Systems (TMS) that will allow trains to create their own ‘buffer zone’ via a digital signal transmitted from the cab. This will mean delays will be kept to a minimum through a computer running algorithms and deciding how best to return traffic patterns to normal. (Although this will mean the death of the traditional signal boxes beloved of so many).
  • More driverless features and communicative track assets that coordinate trains more effectively.
  • The rollout of ‘smart trains’ that will improve the customer experience.
  • The adoption and utilisation of mobile technology and big data for the benefit of travellers as demand increases for real time information to be available ‘at your fingertips’.

And the future of rail is even more exciting

Japan is planning a ‘floating’ train, powered by magnets that will travel 100mph faster than current bullet trains (approx. 300mph). The floating train will run along a 315 mile route at a cost of $64 billion.
And something that could truly turn the rail industry on its head and usher in the age of hyper-speed travel is Elon Musk’s Hyperloop project. Based on the concept of a high speed pneumatic transportation system Hyperloop could potentially transport passengers at speeds as high as 700mph. The autonomous train unit would levitate slightly above the track, enabling it to glide at faster-than-airline speeds over long distances. In a UK context, Hyperloop would reduce the Manchester to London commute to a journey of 18 minutes!

The fast track to success
The future of the rail industry is bright, and only set to get brighter. The advent of ‘digital rail’ as well as ongoing investment in the UK’s rail infrastructure means that an array of new types of jobs are being created.
Whether you have a background in traditional rail engineering or roles that have not been typically associated with rail such as ICT, programming, ergonomics and UX, take a look at the opportunities that are available with Fircroft today and get your career on track with a role in rail.



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