"Never catch up with change because new tech happens everyday. If you stop and do nothing you will soon be far behind."
It seemed like only yesterday that we said goodbye to SmartRail 2017, but after many months of planning SmartRail 2018 has officially arrived. As ever, we’ve strived to include speakers and companies from some of the most creative and cutting-edge companies working in the rail industry today to help answer some of the most burning questions – and perhaps pose a few more in the process. One thing that hasn’t changed this year is the venue, and with that in mind it‘s fantastic be back at the always impressive Amsterdam’s Passenger Terminal, particularly as Spring has seemingly arrived and brought with it abundant sunshine.
Opening the event, SmartRail World’s event manager, Louisa Manning, outlined some of the key themes of the show before handing over to Luke Upton, the SmartRail World editor, who said a little about some of the major trends influencing our industry today. In moderating the opening C-level plenary session, Luke set out the key challenge facing the industry: continuing to invest in technology but doing so cost-efficiently and inclusivelu - quite the challenge, but one that set the tone nicely for Tjalling Smit, chief commercial officer for The Netherland’s very own Nederlandse Spoorwegen, who spoke about the innovation it employed to meet its passengers’ demands.
Illustrating the diversity of the speakers at SmartRail, Ezequiel Lemos, president of Argentina’s Trenes Argentinos Cargas joined SmartRail for the first time to show what the freight operator was doing to grow the sector; John Voppen, chief operations officer from ProRail, spoke about what impact digital was having on his country’s network; and Dr Bashar Al Malek, chief executive officer of Saudi Railway Company, also joined the panel and spoke about the need to increase capacity of passenger and freight.
Three rooms covering infrastructure, signalling and telecoms and train operations ensured that, sadly, attendees couldn’t see it all but a packed agenda that included Jens-Erik Galdiks from SBB Cargo, and Pat McFadden, from Network Rail, on building international routes, advancing rolling stock tech to streamline operations and the instigation of major digital infrastructure, meant there was something there for everyone.
To keep up to date with live tweets from today you can use the #SmartRail and our own @SmartRailWorld Twitter account for photos, quotes and news!
"Simply buying trains is not enough, we also need to increase frequency. We have done so for Amsterdam to Eindhoven intercity trains running every 10 minutes, achieving it by focusing on punctuality that means every train must leave to the second. Helping this along will be the conductors, who will have smart watches on their wrist to signal when trains are ready to depart and a real-time driver information system that tells them everything they need to know," - Tjalling Smit, Member of the Board and Chief Commercial Officer, Nederlandse Spoorwegen.
"In Argentina we come after more than 50 years of no investment and we have recover the system. Productivity is the key if we are to achieve a sustainable operation and become a leading player in the market. We have come from worst in class but we need to be best in class," - Ezequiel Lemos, President, Trenes Argentinos Cargas
"One of the biggest stations Utrecht, which handles 90m passengers annually, moved from 180 switches to fewer than 60 but now we can twice as many trains with less infrastructure. It’s vital we do the same across the country - we can't sit back because we won’t be able to deal with the passenger influx with new tracks alone," - John Voppen, Chief Operations Officer, ProRail
"What we need in an integrated system that goes to stations that are connected with all forms of mobility options – from shared cars, to bicycles and even private cars. Basically, all types of systems that enable passengers to travel to the very last mile. We have lots of systems at the moment but they’re not yet integrated and this is something that has to change," - Alexandra van Huffelen, Chief Executive Officer, GVB Amsterdam
"Never catch up with change because new tech happens everyday. If you stop and do nothing you will soon be far behind. We have begun to work with AI technology because we need as an operator to do something for the passenger," - James Shi, Director of Operation Division, Taiwan High Speed Rail
"We shape mobility of the future. Simple, personal and integrated,” Daniel Achermann, Senior Expert on Traffic Management Systems, SBB.
"We provide services for passengers, freight and mineral industries. Last year we transported more than 9m tonnes of mineral and 4.6m tonnes of phosphate. A 1,167 line now connects the north of the country that has six trains with 120 cars that stretch to around 3km in length - the second longest in the world!" - Dr Bashar Al Malek, Chief Executive Officer, Saudi Arabia Railway
"Investing now in rail would see change at the earliest in 2025, so I do think there is much more to gain to invest in other forms of transport because it will help support and aid connections between locations. Rail is at its best when operating a high-capacity, high-density service," - Bart Schmeink, Chief Executive Officer, Transdev Netherlands
“We need to be a part of a system. Even if that system is changing. We don’t want to be fighting Google or Uber, as if we do, I think it’s a battle we’ll lose.” Pat McFadden, Head of Technical Policy and Strategy - Digital Railway, Network Rail
"Security is for sure one the biggest challenges facing the use of digital tech. hackers can focus in something as small as a thermostat to launch an attack today. Because of this we make sure that sensor data is securely covered and you can be sure that other players in the industry are doing the same thing. In terms of security, moving to the cloud is a positive thing." - Robert Madl, Global Partner Executive, CISCO
"We’ve used predictive maintenance for several years now that links together tech data from the train and the on-train monitoring recorders. The contractual side of things is the biggest challenge, we find, because what we’ve done over the years doesn’t necessarily fit into the new build. That’s a challenge for us all.” - Paul Boyle, Head of ERTMS, Virgin Trains East Coast
“Railways are big and solid. Like dinosaurs. They were big and solid too. But became extinct! I think sometimes when looking at decision making, about what would Elon Musk do? He always says he can either watch it happen, or be a part of it.” Baseliyos Jacob, Senior Expert for ATO and ETCS, DB Cargo.
Join us tomorrow, from 9 o'clock for day two of SmartRail with our opening session focusing on cyber-security.
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