A Balanced Approach to AI Adoption in the Rail Industry and Beyond

Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly becoming a driving force behind the transformation in many industries, and the rail industry is no exception.

Headshot of Shahar Hania, Founder and CEO at Rail Vision
Shahar Hania, Founder and CEO at Rail Vision

This article will discuss how AI is transforming the rail industry, highlighting examples of AI use cases, benefits and potential challenges. Finally, I will provide actionable recommendations for businesses in all industries looking to implement AI technology.


One of the most significant areas where AI can impact the rail industry is scheduling. Traditionally, train schedules have been created and managed manually, requiring significant human input and expertise. However, AI algorithms can now process vast amounts of data and generate optimised schedules in real-time, adjusting to unforeseen circumstances such as delays and cancellations. For example, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) uses an AI-based system to optimise its train timetables, improving punctuality and reducing energy consumption.


Predictive maintenance is another area where AI is making significant strides. By analysing sensor data from trains and infrastructure, AI can identify patterns and anomalies that indicate potential issues before they become critical. This allows railway operators to schedule maintenance more effectively and minimise disruptions to service. For instance, Network Rail in the UK is using AI-powered cameras to monitor the condition of railway tracks, predicting when repairs are needed, and preventing costly breakdowns.


AI can also enhance security in the rail industry, both in terms of physical safety and cyber security. AI-powered surveillance systems can analyse video feeds in real time, detecting unusual or suspicious behaviour and alerting security personnel. This can help prevent incidents like theft, vandalism and terrorism. In terms of cyber security, AI can monitor network traffic and detect potential threats, protecting sensitive data and critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.

Customer Experience

AI is also improving the customer experience in the rail industry. Chatbots and virtual assistants can provide real-time information on train schedules, delays, and ticketing options, making it easier for passengers to plan their journeys. AI can also analyse passenger data to optimise train capacity and seat allocation, ensuring a more comfortable and efficient travel experience.

For example, Amtrak, the US-based passenger rail service, uses an AI-powered chatbot called ‘Julie’ to assist passengers with their travel needs, reducing wait times and providing accurate information.

Challenges and Concerns: The Continued Need for Human Expertise

While AI brings numerous benefits to the rail industry, it is essential to recognise that humans still play a critical role in various aspects of railway operations. Despite advancements in AI technology, there are areas where human expertise, creativity and emotional intelligence remain indispensable. This section will discuss the continued need for human involvement in decision-making, problem-solving and passenger interactions.

Critical Decision-Making

AI systems can analyse vast amounts of data and make recommendations based on patterns and trends. However, they may not always be able to account for unique situations or complex variables that require nuanced understanding and judgement. In these cases, human intervention is necessary to make informed decisions that balance various factors such as safety, efficiency and customer satisfaction. For example, during extreme weather events or emergencies, railway operators may need to make quick decisions that prioritise passenger safety over other considerations, requiring human judgement and experience.

Creativity and Ingenuity

While AI can optimise and automate many processes, it is still limited in its ability to innovate and think creatively. Humans possess the ability to think outside the box and devise novel solutions to complex problems, which is crucial in driving innovation within the rail industry. For instance, developing new train designs, rail infrastructure and service offerings often requires human creativity and ingenuity to identify opportunities and overcome challenges.

Emotional Intelligence

AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can provide passengers with information and assistance, but they cannot replicate the empathy and emotional intelligence that humans possess. When dealing with difficult situations, such as delays, cancellations or complaints, human staff can empathise with passengers and respond appropriately, helping to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty. In addition, human employees can better understand cultural nuances and adapt their communication style accordingly, ensuring a more personalised and positive experience for passengers.

Balancing AI and Human Involvement

To maximise the benefits of AI while addressing the challenges and concerns, businesses in all industries should strive to strike a balance between AI adoption and human expertise. This can be achieved by:

  • Leveraging AI for data-driven insights: utilising AI systems to gather and analyse data, providing valuable insights to inform decision-making and problem-solving processes
  • Empowering human employees: encouraging employees to use their creativity, judgement and emotional intelligence to complement AI-generated insights, ensuring a more holistic approach to business operations
  • Investing in training and upskilling: providing opportunities for employees to develop their skills and knowledge in AI-related areas, enabling them to work effectively alongside AI systems and contribute to innovation
  • Fostering collaboration: creating a culture of collaboration between human employees and AI systems, encouraging open communication and knowledge sharing to drive continuous improvement

By recognising the continued need for human expertise and adopting a balanced approach to AI implementation, businesses can harness the power of both AI and human capabilities to achieve greater efficiency, safety and customer satisfaction.

Written by: Shahar Hania, Founder and CEO at Rail Vision

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