Unleashing Data to Drive Rail Operations Recovery

A host of industry experts came together at the recent Digital Rail Revolution Online Summit where they discussed current and future challenges, and explored the ways in which digitisation can deliver a healthier future for the sector. 

Signature Rail’s own General Manager Paul Harrington and Director of Business Development Antony Chilton-Murphy contributed to an enlightening panel session titled ‘Solving Complex Operational Challenges to Improve Services’, in which they joined two rail operator leaders to share their experiences and insight. 

Data was of course an interesting talking point throughout the event, with particular focus on how Covid-19 has forced operators to change the way they analyse, share and use their data – and how technology can assist with this. 

Improving Access to Data 

With travel patterns completely overturned during the pandemic, the panel discussed how operators are now focused on sharing data throughout their organisations to enable teams to adapt and plan services that meet constantly shifting demands. 

Chris Fowler, Customer Services Director at Southern Railway said: “This has been an opportunity to bring together a lot of data within our own company and to share that around. 

“We started going out and looking for data, to find out how busy we were, and which trains were being used at what time. In customer-facing operations, we found that our engineering colleagues had all this amazing data that we’d never shared across the company before.  

“They thought they just needed it for maintenance, but during Covid-19 we were able to share that much more widely and use that to plan services as well. So, when we saw when trains were going over capacity in terms of what you might deem to be safe in social distancing, we could say we’ll put in more trains on that route and vice versa. If we were over provisioning a route, then we could take that out and share that capacity around.” 

Learning How to Use the Data 

As the example above shows, operators have found ways to access a seam of rich, new data. But of course there is also the challenge of making best use of it. 

Signature Rail’s technology supports operators with agile, intuitive software  and powerful algorithms to transform data into meaningful sets of information to empower effective decision making. 

As Paul Harrington explained: “The digitisation process always relies on the end-user having really easy, simple access to information – otherwise they will drown. If it’s pure data and they have to comb through it and become an expert in a set of tools, it becomes meaningless.  

“Business Intelligence (BI) dashboards now are available to anybody, anywhere, on any device. And I think that’s probably one of the biggest shifts we’ve seen, that an end-user can very quickly interrogate the data and have meaningful information provided to them quickly and efficiently. And you can customize those dashboards to each of the individuals, so the important information is surfaced as quickly as possible.” 

As a technology supplier that specialises in the provision and utilisation of data, the Signature Rail team understands that operational data belongs to train operators – and it is our job to help them  access and make full use of it. 

Signature Rail directly supports this process by  getting the systems that manage timetables, resources, vehicles and crew to talk to each other – especially where there are multiple providers. Signature Rail embraces the need to move data more freely and believes in the ideology of open source and true collaboration between tech companies for better rail services. 

To find out more about accessing and harnessing data to improve your operations, please watch the session recording below.