Uncertainty and disruption dominated the railway during the pandemic – travel patterns were diminished, and planners were blindsided – but the rail industry pulled together to ensure demand was met.
This was the topic at the recent Digital Rail Revolution Online Summit where leaders from rail operators were brought together at a panel session titled Solving Complex Operational Challenges to Improve Services. During the session they spoke about lessons learned during the pandemic and the pressing need to work together to unleash data and drive recovery.
A Willingness to Collaborate
Since the pandemic, disruption has become part of our daily lives – and this is something operators have had to accept. However, it has also led to new opportunities to drive towards a better future for rail, together.
Nick Westcott, Operations Director at Avanti West Coast said: “The franchise model encouraged competition between train operators pre-pandemic, but the encouragement from the Department for Transport (DFT), is now very much in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation, reducing duplication, sharing good practice and making sure that everyone is working coherently together – which is clearly a good direction to travel in.”
A New Sense of Transparency
Tech companies of whatever size, have a role to play in enabling rail operators to fully commit to the DfT’s new focus – and they can facilitate and enhance collaboration. Tech companies should be willing and open to sharing data with competitors, solely for the benefit of rail operators.
Antony Chilton-Murphy, Business Development Director at Signature Rail endorse this view by explaining that this is something that we accept and actively do. He said: “We are now working with three competitors to move data to their products and back again because we believe that this will be of most value to our customers. This should be the new normal – as that is collaboration. The data belongs to the rail operator, not a tech supplier, so why shouldn’t it be shared for the customers’ advantage?
“I think it’s something that all tech companies are going to have to get used to. It isn’t about end-to-end solutions from one single company, it’s about sharing information. So, the nimbler we can get in moving data from our software to someone else’s, the better.”
Paul Harrington, General Manager for Signature Rail and TTG Europe added: “This is a complex operating environment, and it requires a real collaboration across all the parties involved. So, we need to be working as openly as possible, with as many open standards as possible. This is a new way of working that supplier must be open to.”
The Role of Technology
Technology is needed to actively support rail operators to share information more widely throughout their organisation.
Nick Wescott Operations Director at Avanti West Coast said: “If we’re going to get much better at managing disruption, we need to have shared platforms through which everyone can quickly and easily see what decisions are being made.
“Where the tech supply chain can help us there, is in facilitating the technology to cross different organisation IT infrastructure and allow us to access the same digital software, because they’re usable for the same reason of recovering the railway as accurately and as quickly as possible, rather than having to pick the phone up to each other when decisions are being made or need to be communicated.”
Technology suppliers will need to accept and adhere to this new way of working – and as this session shows, Signature Rail has a strong commitment to openness and transparency in order to benefit customers by working openly and facilitating technology to actively support collaboration across the industry.
To find out more, please watch the session recording below.