Train companies set out hi-tech vision for future of Britain’s railways

Biometric ticketing, configurable seating and self-regulating trains are just a few of the innovations that could shape the UK’s rail network in the years ahead, according to the UK’s Rail Delivery Group.

The group, which is made up of all of the UK’s train operating and infrastructure companies identifies the technologies in its Capability Delivery Plan – a newly published blueprint for how technology will help address the challenges facing the rail system.

The paper references over 200 projects that it believes could increase the efficiency and flexibility of the network, chief amongst which are initiatives focused on replacing tickets with Bluetooth and biometric based technologies.

Citing forthcoming trials on Arriva’s route between London and Oxford the report claims that smartphone apps will soon replace conventional ticketing. In the longer term, however, it says that this could give way to biometric technology – such as fingerprint or iris-scanning – allowing customers to be automatically identified and charged against their travel account.

The blueprint also considers the ways in which new seat designs could be used to improve comfort and increase the amount of space for passengers on both new and existing trains. Initiatives include seats that can be reconfigured at busy times of the day to allow more space for passengers.

Another key area of interest is intelligent, self- regulating trains that are able to communicate with each other to in order to avoid conflicts at signals. The paper points to the recently announced £450m investment in the Digital Railway programme – which will trial new signaling technology – as a major step towards this vision.

Commenting on the blueprint Paul Plummer, the Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group said: “This blueprint sets out how we can harness digital technology to make journeys better for passengers and freight customers on a railway that’s simpler and easier to use.