Railroad with IoT & 5G: A highway to sustainability

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Current situation:

The European Union has been leading international efforts to fight climate changes. EU took the lead to convince global leaders to sign up for Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The EU, in Dec 2020, set the target to reduce CO2 (carbon dioxide)emissions by at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels. 

Currently transport and logistics sector contribute to around 24% of global CO2 emissions. By 2050, the European Environment Agency expects global logistics to account for up to 40% of global CO2 emissions. Logistics with such heavy emission % and potential upside; EU has set targets for Renewable Energy Sources (RES) usage in Logistics. Member states must source a minimum of 14% of the energy consumed in road and rail transport by 2030 as renewable energy.

Railroad as solution  

Rail has a key role to play for EU strategy to cut carbon emissions from transport by 90% within the next three decades. EU’s aim is of doubling the high-speed rail traffic by 2030 and tripling it by 2050. Let’s take 3600 view on challenges, potential benefits, investments, technology solutions that are transforming the industry.

Current Challenges for Railroad:

  • Lack of Investment in rail since early 2000 due to concerns over safety, labour issues
  • Freight transport has seen a decline in recent decade
  • Across Europe though there are 33 Railroad companies across 24 countries, mainly following below different types / standards

Potential Benefits of EU investing in Railroad:

  • Faster: Faster transition towards EU targets on reneawable energy usage.  Zero CO2 Emission with Railroads using Renewable Energy Sources
  • Cost effective: Railraod is considered as second cheapest mode of transportation. With multiple options coming up, it will be more cost effective
  • Proven Technology: Technology is available for energy transition. No other proven technology is available for large scale transportation 
  • Sustainable: Traffic congestions are going to go up. Railroad, with 24*7 operations with autonomous driving & ETCS (European Train Control System), will make it sustainable

Investments enhancing the railroad network:

Europe’s major railway players have called for massive investments in rail Infrastructure. In Feb 2022, 33 railway companies from 24 European countries signed a pact during the European Railway Summit in Paris. Rail Industry in the next two decades, will see massive turnaround & heavy investments flowing in. Each EU member is focusing on adding physical & digital assets for Railroads including multiple Railroads to establish end to end connectivity within country.

Investments in asset addition:

Technology playing important role in transforming Railroad

Physical assets need to be integrated, digitized. Asset utilization needs to be monitored for predictive maintenance & better utilization of Railroad industry.  Railroads have been using Internet of Trains (IoT) and IT OT integrations to ensure safety, better operating efficiency & higher utilization. This is creating huge opportunities in IoT, IT OT integrations for digitization of Railraod industry. 5G private networks will help in integrating devices, locomotives and IT systems. Internet of Trains and Train Control Systems will transform Railraod industry. Autonomous rails with automated warehouses will open up additional technology transformation opportunities. Below is the simplified architecture of Internet of Trains & overall Rail Raod systems.

Rail network at EU Level:

Above mentioned challenge of different type / standard can be sorted out with Technology. At country level interoperatability can be easily achieved with ETCS as they use same gauge. At EU level 90% of European railroad industry uses the same gauge and with IoT, IT OT integration with train Control systems & additional locomotives, almost 90% of EU potentially can operate as single Railroad netowrk. This will provide huge interoperatability benefits across EU. Railraods will be cost effective, faster across EU.  

Results so far:

Railraod technology adoption is picking up very fast & investments are flowing in for Railraod Industry:

  1. In 2020 alone, 147,340 trucks were transported by rail and road traffic was reduced for the local population. The Rail Cargo Group, an ÖBB freight transport subsidiary, operates the cross-border connection between Wörgl and Trento from the terminal in Wörgl, in addition to the Brenner Pass connection. (Link)
  • 08 December 2022 In France  : State owned industrial company for the Grand Paris Express metro project, has appointed Nokia to deploy a private 5G network across four new lines and 68 new stations in the French capital, covering 200 kilometres of track ( Link )
  • 06 Jan 2023Siemens wins contracts to enable solar power use for UK rail . Simens will condcut study on how to feed solar energy directly to 25kV trains. (Link)

Conclusions:

Railroad industry will be the front runner for using Renewable energy for transportation. It will fetch multi-Billion Euros of investments for new Infra addition over next two decades. IoT, 5G & Train Control Systems will transform Railroad, also help in achieving sustainability goals. Overall speed, utilization, availability & efficiency of Railroad will improve. Railroad investments will continue as it will enable transportation with reduction of CO2 emission, lower traffic congestions in a cost-effective option.

Narendra Vaishampayan

About

Narendra has excellent track record for 20+ years across Business development, Program management, Consulting roles. He has led large business transformation programs. He managed large teams across locations. Heading Presales team & GTM for Sogeti India QET Practice. He is SME for IoT, SMART Devices, SMART buildings, SMART Grids, SMART factories, Industry 4.0.

More on Narendra Vaishampayan.

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