‘Digital Railway Could Bring Substantial Benefits to Rail Network’

Cross Country ‘Voyager’ at Stafford © Glawster Oldspot (license)

The intelligent use of signalling and traffic management technology through the Digital Railway, could bring substantial benefit to the UK’s rail network, says the Transport Committee in its report ‘Rail technology: signalling and traffic management‘.

Elements of the Digital Railway programme are already in use, others are being trialled. A fully implemented, cross-industry delivery plan, is to be encouraged. However, Network Rail should make sure that the right interventions are used on the right routes and take their time to get it right.

The term ‘Digital Railway’ covers a range of systems rather than a specific technology. The Committee does not advocate or reject any specific option but recommends that Network Rail undertakes a full cost/benefit analysis which is published for consultation, before finalising its strategy.

Louise Ellman MP, Chair of the Transport Committee, commented:

“The number of passengers using our rail network is increasing year on year. There is an urgent need to increase capacity and the Digital Railway is an exciting programme which could have real impact. We have seen successes on some metro lines already.

However, measured and realistic plans are essential to the progress of the digital railway. Network Rails needs to keep a firm grip on their plans and they need to include the whole sector. There will need to be a full cost/benefit analysis published case by case, for consultation, before strategies can be finalised. The Department for Transport will need to seek input from rolling stock owners, passenger and freight operating companies, technology suppliers and trade unions representing railway workers.

This is a real opportunity to give the UK’s rail passengers a world class system. Network Rail’s past performance in planning major enhancements has been poor but this is an exciting opportunity to restore confidence by co-ordinating a whole sector approach which delivers real improvements for the passenger and industry.”

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