The digitization is picking up speed in the rail sector. On the road to condition-based maintenance, vehicle and locomotive condition data is collected. Thanks to permanent Internet connection, new trains are proactively saving energy and ensure a higher level of rail network capacity. The transition from electrical to digital rail network is driving the infrastructure in the industry. On the agenda is also the application of the ‘Building Modeling Information‘ software for all infrastructure projects. Big Data, smart machines and the increasing connectivity transform maintenance and production plants to intelligent production facilities. The connected railway system is still in its infancy, slowly but surely developing to it‘s full capacity. How do you broadly apply the digital concepts in the railway sector? More than 40,000 km of rail network and a vehicle pool of more than 20,000 locomotives, rail and passenger cars as well as more than 100,000 freight cars are to be digitized in Germany. Where do you start? Which digitization steps are required for which actor in the value chain on the way to this mutual goal?
The formerly national railway markets are becoming increasingly international. Market liberalization politically motivated by EU railway acts and the emergence of new industry players from other parts of the world pose challenges for the European railway industry. Asian companies in particular are pushing into the world market and Europe, with end products (e.g. trains, wagons/cars) and spare parts (e. g. axlebox bearings). These developments are also globalizing the European supply chains. Supply alliances need to be analyzed and realigned. Innovative solutions from developing markets[KS1] can be integrated (reverse innovation) and the pace of innovation in the industry is picking up speed. How do these changes affect the different actors of the system railway?
The innovation pace of the 21st century requires the introduction of new technologies also in the rail sector. Ideas from other transportation sectors such as the automotive industry are streaming into the rail industry: new drives for non-electrified railway lines (hydrogen, hybrids & batteries) are beginning to achieve market share. Autonomous driving for large-scale applications in the entire rail network is discussed. New technologies such as additive manufacturing, robotics and cobotics or virtual reality are introduced to production and maintenance. Disruptive technologies for future mobility such as Hyperloop or electric cars are fundamentally questioning the well-established processes of the system railway. The question is, which new technologies and innovations have a future and improve the railway industry?
Autonomous rail cars (Automatic Train Operation / ATO) already exist in many parts of the world. In Germany, Nuremberg's subway runs driverless. Autonomous Metro trains and subways already operate in many cities of the world, such as New York, Barcelona, Budapest, Algiers, Dubai, São Paolo, Beijing or Paris. Encouraged by approaches of the automotive industry, the idea of autonomous trains is now developed for regional and long-distance trains. First pilots run in Switzerland, aiming at increasing the capacity of the long-distance rail network. The goal is a large-scale application of ATO to full automation (level 4 according to UITP). There is great potential for automated processes in the production and in the maintenance of trains and of infrastructure material. What are manufacturers and suppliers faced with regarding the demands on future vehicle and infrastructure technology?