Owing to the sheer scale and and complexity of the modern rail industry, it perhaps stands to reason that the operators and infrastructure companies working in it look to external companies to try and predict where the next big changes will come. For the latest 5 Minutes With…, SmartRail World caught up with an individual who works in that very area, helping transport make the most of its opportunities. Wasay Rashid works for ARC Advisory Group, the global analyst firm which offers thought leadership and research to transportation, manufacturing, energy, infrastructure and supply chain professionals worldwide on some of the most complex business issues.
In his role as analyst, Wasay explains to Dave Songer about why he loves working in rail, where he sees intelligent infrastructure and smart cities heading, what the biggest challenges facing the transport industry are and the ground he'll cover at this year's SmartRail.
Dave Songer (DS): Hi Wasay, good to meet you – can you begin by telling me about your involvement in the rail industry?
Wasay Rashid (WR): I’m the lead economic analyst for the railways and transport and I analyse the industry in detail to provide technology and strategy solutions, working with our partners along the way so they can take strategic and informed decisions in policy formation and operational decisions. I work with private and public stakeholders across the industry – some of the topics I cover are asset management, rolling stock, signalling systems. They’re my current focus, but overall in railways, I am covering the most relevant topics; more of a holistic approach.
DS: Great, what is it you most like being involved in rail and transport?
WR: Transport has always been something I’ve wanted to work in. Previously, I worked for Maersk Line (@Maersk), the container shipping company, and now I’m with @arc_advisory to work in rail. What I find fascinating in general about transport is that it makes our world go around. It connects people, businesses, goods and trade and, most importantly, ideas. Infrastructure is the backbone of the world economy; it moves people, good, it powers our lives and fuels growth.
To see Wasay's address and live discussions on the issues in this interview, visit SmartRail on 17-19 June in Munich, where infrastructure managers, passenger rail and freight operators and industry suppliers will cover the latest developments.
Visit the show website to see the agenda, speakers and register for the show.
DS: Looking to the future, you focus on intelligent infrastructure and smart cities at ARC. Can you tell me about some of the main issues there?
WR: Safe and efficient infrastructure is the foundation on which economies are built yet around the world infrastructure systems are coming under increased strain owing to unprecedented urbanisation and continued globalisation and the effects of climate change. So, in addition to developing nations that are struggling to build new infrastructure while developed countries must replace their ageing infrastructure – investment that would require many trillions of dollars.
DS: How do you think transport will look in a decade’s time, and perhaps beyond?
WR: Well, for now the transport industry is definitely moving forward with electric vehicles. Coming behind that comes the second layer: autonomous vehicles. There are still a lot of safety issues around that but in the next decade I would think that the industry is focused on shifting from fossil fuels to more electric and clean energy propulsion.
Powering those electric vehicles, I also think that it’s very important to have end-to-end clean energy which isn’t produced by burning coal and supplying the same electricity to then charge the batteries of these cars. We can also say that hydro cell technology will also come in the future, as well as the hydrogen-powered trains that we have already seen in action from Alstom – a fantastic innovation that I must commend them on. The future of transport is bright but there is a lot of work to be done – such as in the case of shipping which pretty much exclusively uses oil. But for rail there is some great work being done such as the Shift2Rail initiative that trying to promote more rail transportation compared to other means and modes of transportation.
DS: What would you say are the biggest challenges facing the transport industry?
WR: The public opinion towards to modes of transportation. Take the Middle East, for example. Historically, in that part of the world people love their cars and they’re not into the idea of using rail or metro; they would rather drive to their office in their car or 4WD in comparison to rail, so the biggest challenge there is the public’s acceptance. The public need to actually start pushing the industries to bring new tech and innovative steps and I think the industry would then recognise there is a demand for a certain type of transport. Right now, I think the challenge is not so much from the industry side but more from the public perception about sustainable transportation, but it’s slowly happening and people are starting to realise what we should do. In Norway, the country recently saw the sale for electric vehicles was higher than fossil-powered cars. That’s a really good indicator, but that’s Norway and I think people need to change their perception how they want to use a certain type of transportation in other parts of the world too.
DS: And your biggest professional challenge – what’s that been?
WR: Learning a new language – in my case German! I’ve worked through it and it’s going well, but it has been tough.. Also, the transition from university life to the professional world has been a challenge. You’re expected to work and behave in a certain manner and you need to be more careful what you say and how that’s perceived.
DS: You’re due to speak at SmartRail in June – what do you think you’ll cover at the event?
WR: I will be speaking on building integrated mobility platforms, in terms of comprehensive approach where growing urban populations and the expected future of transport needs. I'll also talk about reducing the attractiveness of cars and using different forms of transport and the environmental benefits of public transport and shared mobility.
DS: Finally, can you tell me about your favourite rail journey?
WR: I think one of my favourites was between Moscow and St Petersburg during the World Cup. I was on my way to see Belgium versus England for third place. I had great fun on the journey and – to my surprise – the train ride was included in the match ticket price.
If you enjoyed this, check out our last with: Steffen Wendzel, professor at University of Applied Sciences, Worms.