How is technology changing the rail industry?

Marta Desviat

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The Rail Revenue World Congress 2016 brought together rail industry experts with the objectives to look at ways of using technology to grow revenue and increase customer engagement.  Amadeus was part of it, and Thomas Drexler shared his view on how technology is changing the rail industry and how to bring real innovation to railways. 

Technology is powering all customer touch points

How can railways make the most of the opportunities in the digital world? The answer is technology. We have identified three technology trends that will shape the future of travel and will help railways better target new customer touch points:

Internet of Things (IoT) has been labelled as "the next Industrial Revolution" because of the way it will change the way people live, work and travel. The IoT will help railways:

  • To improve safety and the passenger experience
  • To gain operational efficiency

The Spanish railway Renfe, has partnered with Siemens to identify the right kinds of data and use it to keep track of trains in real time. The partnership goal is to ensure on-time operations on the high-speed rail line between Madrid and Barcelona. Renfe promised train passengers a complete refund if the train is delayed by 15 minutes or more. Siemens helped Renfe achieve nearly flawless service, with only one major delay in 2,300 trips.

Cloud-based technology is definitely the new business buzzword. Essentially the cloud is, in fact, the Internet. The main benefits of using cloud-based technology?

  • Substantial cost savings, as the cloud, is a hosted service,
  • Greater accessibility, 
  • Better security.

Network Rail and Deloitte are a great example: the multiplicity of sources of data Network Rail is working with, and the complexity of planning rules have led to a volume of data that was too vast to validate internally. Therefore, the partnership with Deloitte led to creating a cloud-based web-accessible system utilizing the billions of data generated by the railway's signaling system about the movement of trains across the network to help Network Rail validate timetable planning rules. By using this cloud-based system, Network Rail was able to automate data process, improve punctuality and overall performance.

The Era of Living Services describes how brands use the IoT  to create services by predicting to consumers’ changing needs. We have tagged travel brands as later adopters of this trends, however finding an example in the retail industry is easy. 

Blippar demonstrates how living services will create a world where everything becomes a shop. Consumers will literally buy what they see at the point of desire - which could be anywhere. Once the Blippar app is downloaded, people can blip ("scan") objects - like an orange - they’re curious about and unlock content to see locations of nearby grocers, nutritional information and top-rated recipes.   

How can rail technology increase profitability?   

Technology can be an effective way to make railways more profitable. Technology can help to:

  • Boost ancillary revenue: finding new sales channels and maximizing onboard retail opportunities at each customer touch point. Railways can now promote real-time offers and sell customized relevant ancillary products to the right customers, at the right time in their journey. Not only does technology make the decision-making process easier and more personal for the passenger but it adds a viable revenue stream for the railway. 
  • Create a seamless experience:  it is a cost effective way to drive revenue and loyalty. Nowadays customers are expecting convenience, efficiency, and personalization. Railways should look for ways of providing value, convenience and comfort.  
  • Reduce costs: while the most obvious benefit of rail technology is increased productivity, another benefit to help be more profitable is cost reduction.

Digital, cloud-based, open. How is technology changing the rail industry?

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