Digitalisation in railway transport: A lever to improve rail competitiveness

20-02-2019

Since the 1990s, digitalisation has been advancing at speed across all industrial sectors, public entities and society at large; and railways are no exception. Digital technologies already govern rail customers' expectations, ticket reservation and purchasing habits, operators' information and payments systems, but experts believe these technologies have much more to offer the sector. Digitalisation is key to industry competitiveness and has therefore become an EU priority. The EU has been forging a cross-policy approach and programmes to ensure a solid policy framework, finance research and infrastructure, develop standards and connectivity, and use data effectively. This should enable rail actors to capture digitalisation's potential, improve their efficiency and serve their customers better. The European Parliament has been contributing to this policy. Rail companies have already implemented a vast array of new services and applications using digital technologies, be it for providing more information and leisure services on board, improving the monitoring of their assets or automating more operations. The changes introduced by digitalisation in rail transport are perceived by many stakeholders as an opportunity – owing to the benefits it can offer – but also as a challenge. Indeed, it will require a change of mindsets and business models. Rail digitalisation will also require financial investment and a strategy to tackle cyber threats. Addressing these challenges will allow digitalisation to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of the railway sector.

Since the 1990s, digitalisation has been advancing at speed across all industrial sectors, public entities and society at large; and railways are no exception. Digital technologies already govern rail customers' expectations, ticket reservation and purchasing habits, operators' information and payments systems, but experts believe these technologies have much more to offer the sector. Digitalisation is key to industry competitiveness and has therefore become an EU priority. The EU has been forging a cross-policy approach and programmes to ensure a solid policy framework, finance research and infrastructure, develop standards and connectivity, and use data effectively. This should enable rail actors to capture digitalisation's potential, improve their efficiency and serve their customers better. The European Parliament has been contributing to this policy. Rail companies have already implemented a vast array of new services and applications using digital technologies, be it for providing more information and leisure services on board, improving the monitoring of their assets or automating more operations. The changes introduced by digitalisation in rail transport are perceived by many stakeholders as an opportunity – owing to the benefits it can offer – but also as a challenge. Indeed, it will require a change of mindsets and business models. Rail digitalisation will also require financial investment and a strategy to tackle cyber threats. Addressing these challenges will allow digitalisation to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of the railway sector.