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Network Rail to invest extra £333m in IT over five years

Kathleen Hall

Network Rail is to invest an additional £333m in IT, as part of the body's £37.5bn railway investment plan for 2014-2019.

"Continued investment in IT will be essential if we are to continue improving the service that we deliver to our customers as well as reducing costs. We have therefore included a further £333m within our plan," said Network Rail in its five-year plan for railway investment.

The organisation also plans to cut £250m over 15 years by centralising its operational control and introducing modern control system technology. Under the moves it will axe more than 4,000 staff at its frontline as it centralises operations from 800 locations to 14 operating centres.

Migration will be staggered so the levels of redundancies will be kept to a minimum through staff retirements, leavers and utilisation of staff at other locations where possible, said Network Rail.

The company said the proliferation of smartphones and mobile devices over the last decade has set a trend for increased real-time interaction from consumers that looks set to continue. "This is resulting in demands for new information systems and smart ticketing,” it said.

“We have a fresh focus on bringing in new ideas and technology and by 2019 we will be investing more per year than other comparable British companies. Real-time information is helping us to manage our network better, run trains more closely together, and create better timetables. And as we have seen in London with smart ticketing, technology can make public transport easier to use,” it said.

The organisation will also open up data to encourage app developers to find consumer-friendly ways of getting people information.

“By investing with our partners in new train technology such as regenerative breaking and energy metering we can enable the industry to become more energy efficient, thereby reducing costs,” it said.

Investments are also being made in GPS, thermal imaging and 3D camera technology. Other areas of investment include remote condition monitoring (RCM) technology to detect infrastructure degradation; and a modern traffic management system to reduce costs. 

“This automated technology allows the productivity of individual operators to be doubled and provides an improved capability for managing punctuality and disruptions," said Network Rail.

Consumer group Passenger Focus welcomed the technology investments but said the costs should not be passed onto customers.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, said: “Passengers already put in roughly £2 for every pound spent by the taxpayer. It is critical that industry tackles its value-for-money offering, reducing costs without cutting services, to head off another five years of above-inflation fare increases."


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