The rapid pace of technological, environmental and demographic change is leading to some major technological innovations in the world of rail and metro.
The increase in urbanisation for example will place a higher demand on infrastructure, and therefore a heavier reliance on rail. But what will rail transport look like in the future? Here are six of the biggest innovations.
1. Digital revolution
Rail is undergoing a digital revolution with the Internet of Things (IoT) enabling on-board sensors to deliver real time analysis and monitoring, spot problems before they cause delays, automate maintenance and ensure the train’s location is always 100% accurate.
2. New steel developments
The tracks themselves are seeing changes, new steel developments have improved strength-to-weight ratios matching even the best titanium alloys and materials like graphene help make materials that are longer lasting, more resilient to extreme weather and better for the environment.
3. Drones for identifying problems
Whilst high above the tracks, drones are already in use in identifying problems, assisting maintenance workers and in providing additional security by offering a view of trespassers or other threats.
4. Virtual reality
Virtual reality is something making a lot of headlines at the moment and is already in use with industry giant Bombardier, including it in their manufacturing process. Overcoming the challenges of cost and time, VR manufacture creates a 3-D model of a product, tests its efficiency virtually and then brings it to market more quickly and economically.
5. Driverless trains
Copenhagen and Dubai are just two metros that operate driverless trains and automation is increasingly the choice for new networks. Why? A driver free network can deliver a deliver a more predictable network, maximise capacity when many metro systems are struggling to match demand and by removing the element of human-error enhance safety and security. Environmental concerns, fears over energy security and the lowering costs of implementation mean that rail is looking at new forms of power.
6. Alternative energy sources
An area of increasing interest is the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative to diesel to power trains. Already being tested by some railways its advantages are that it offers a competitive price, and lower carbon emissions plus an established regulatory structure when compared to its fossil and renewable fuel rivals.
Urbanization, rapid population growth and climate change concerns are now seeing even regions previously resistant to investing in rail and metro, for example the Middle East, embracing its advantages. These pressures coupled with dynamic innovations like the six listed are making public transport both sustainable and competitive and giving rail and metro a bright and exciting future.