The huge opportunity of satellite technology for rail

The huge opportunity of satellite technology for rail

Carlo Borghini, Executive Director at Europe’s Rail, highlights the important role of digitalization in allowing trains with information and data from different technologies to maximize the performance of their operations, reducing cost, offering new services and maintaining the same level of safety.

29 March 2022
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Railway is a complex system of systems, which means that any change introduced has a cascading effect and requires staff training on a huge scale.

What role do you think is satellite technology going to play in the future of rail?

Carlo BorghiniSatellite technology represents a huge opportunity for rail, as it can reduce costs related to train positioning, offering new services and reducing the reliance on trackside infrastructure, while maintaining
the same level of safety.

Satellite is not the only solution, and the environment needs to be taken into consideration. Therefore, satellite technology, along with 5G, for example, as well as other technologies create the real opportunity. Hence, digitalization will allow trains with information and data from different technologies such as eurobalises, satellite, 5G, etc. to maximize the performance of their operations. An example of a hybrid solution is the Protection Train Control (PTC) system in the USA, that relies on balises, Wi-Fi, 5G and satellite imaging, depending on where the train is. The on-board solutions will become more and more critical to increase the performance of the rail system, making use of new generation of computers with high capacity.

That’s it for the scheduled questions, but if there’s anything you would like to add or that you think we’ve missed…

It is important to always keep in mind that the railway is a complex system of systems, that includes 200’000+ km of rail network, catenary, tracks, eurobalises, locos, wagons and so on, which means that any change introduced has a cascading effect and requires staff training on a huge scale. This complex system requires thorough planning and a system approach, and this is the reason why we moved away from ad hoc projects, that provided very good–but sometimes unviable–solutions.

In conclusion, digitalisation and automation are fundamental, but only via a complete system approach, that takes into consideration all the possible repercussion of digital transformation and interfaces with other modes of transport, that rail shall answer the evolving needs of the European passengers and logistics.

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Roman Kurzo
Fincons Group
Global BU Transportation General Manager
https://www.linkedin.com/in/roman-kurzo/