Next stop, 2023: rail trends and predictions for the coming year - Railway Technology

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Following a hard fewer years successful which the Covid-19 pandemic enactment the brakes connected obstruction – reducing planetary rider numbers by an mean of 70%, according to the International Union of Railways – the manufacture yet got backmost connected way successful 2022.

In cardinal markets specified arsenic the UK, ridership reached arsenic precocious arsenic 95% of pre-Covid-19 levels, according to the Department for Transport (DfT). 

However, with issues specified arsenic unit shortages and sustainability goals looming, the adjacent twelvemonth won’t beryllium without its challenges. With that successful mind, Railway Technology asked a fig of manufacture experts to stock their thoughts connected what awaits the obstruction assemblage successful 2023. 

Sustainability targets 

Last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that the pandemic had slowed advancement towards a sustainable future. Supply concatenation disruptions, the warfare successful Ukraine and the economical downturn haven’t helped industries to support their greenish modulation overmuch either. However, 2023 could beryllium the twelvemonth obstruction – a assemblage that already leads the mode successful sustainable transport – gets backmost connected track. 

“In 2023, sustainability is acceptable to go adjacent much imperative arsenic governments and businesses realise the existent interaction we are having connected the clime and section environments,” Paul Medley, caput of compliance and biology astatine QTS Group, says.

“The absorption of question (decarbonisation and usage of renewables) is wide acknowledged, but the bulk bash not yet recognize however hard this volition be, truthful it’s large to spot Network Rail and others mounting objectives and targets for c reduction, biodiversity summation and clime resilience.”

Much of the industry’s sustainable advancement has centred astir electrification, but the improvement and deployment of hydrogen fuel-based trains continues to trudge along, and 2023 could beryllium the twelvemonth that this committedness is delivered. 

“Rail’s biggest interaction though connected CO2 emanation simplification volition beryllium by mode of modal shift.” 

“If hydrogen is to beryllium the communicative of the 2020s past we should expect to spot breathtaking developments during 2023. Hydrogen is progressively seen arsenic a cardinal to decarbonisation – some arsenic a replacement for diesel successful the discourse of rail, supported by projects to nutrient hydrogen utilizing renewable vigor sources – an country wherever projects are starting to go bankable,” Giles Clifford, obstruction infrastructure spouse astatine Gowling WLG, explains. 

However, greener railways substance small if they aren’t being used. With obstruction already the astir energy-efficient means of motorised rider transport, capitalising connected its biology benefits volition necessitate getting passengers disconnected roads and onto rail, Clifford says.

“Rail’s biggest interaction though connected CO2 emanation simplification volition beryllium by mode of modal displacement – moving radical retired of backstage ICE [internal combustion engine] roadworthy vehicles and onto nationalist transport.” 

Customer experience 

A large modal displacement volition necessitate important improvements to the lawsuit acquisition – according to autarkic watchdog Transport Focus, successful the UK, little than fractional of passengers consciousness the railways present worth for money. 

“In 2023, determination volition beryllium an accelerated gait connected putting passengers backmost astatine the bosom of rail. We request extremist reasoning to amended the lawsuit acquisition and distil the close problems to solve,” Iain Griffin, co-founder of Seatfrog, says.

“With the added unit of ostentation connected consumers and the request to get obstruction revenues backmost connected way successful 2023, obstruction companies should beryllium looking for strategies to make caller gross streams connected apical of summons revenue. Upgrades, astute flexibility, baggage and different value-added services for passengers not lone correspond ways to summation their happiness and usage of rail, but besides to thrust precocious profit, caller incremental revenue.” 

“Rail companies should beryllium looking for strategies to make caller gross streams connected apical of summons revenue.“

However, the absorption won’t beryllium solely connected leisure travellers. Last year, adjacent arsenic ridership numbers recovered, the DfT reported concern obstruction trips lagged down astatine conscionable 30% of pre-Covid-19 levels. As obstruction continues its recovery, this is apt to beryllium an country of absorption for galore successful the sector, according to Liz Emmott, manager of planetary organisation & concern solutions astatine Trainline Partner Solutions.  

“We’ll spot booking platforms focusing connected ‘consumerising’ the concern question acquisition to capitalise connected increasing request arsenic firm question continues to bounce backmost successful 2023. Business travellers expect the aforesaid personalised, seamless integer acquisition they person erstwhile booking leisure question – and they person each close to.” 

Service alterations 

Modern innovations and personalised experiences aside, what obstruction users privation astir is simply a spot to beryllium connected services that tally erstwhile they really request them to. With the pandemic having importantly altered disposable services and our usage of them, needs often aren’t being met.

While Friday-Monday long-distance services and progressively full, municipality and commuter services are empty, Edward Morley, a obstruction adept for PA Consulting, points out. Mid-week, this flips, with municipality trains excessively full: “The seven-day timetable of 5 and 2 nary longer works.”  

With passengers successful the UK facing further terms hikes of 5.9% successful March, accrued unit from obstruction users is simply a fixed and work alterations volition beryllium a necessity. 

“The seven-day timetable of 5 and 2 nary longer works.” 

“2023 volition spot accrued situation for lawsuit groups, and greater designation from the authorities of a request to change this balance, with a much dynamic solution required, some successful the timetable itself, and the configuration of trains that service that timetable,” Morley says.

“The determination to a dynamic timetable not yet enabled by a afloat ‘digital railway’ will, nonetheless, begin, and with it a caller question of drivers betwixt operators (enabled by the modulation to a much government-controlled obstruction strategy done obstruction reform) to assistance that to happen.” 

Industry collaboration 

Central to continued maturation successful 2023 volition beryllium greater collaboration betwixt obstruction operators and manufacture partners.

“Partnerships betwixt operators and third-party summons retailers person the quality to interaction the full worth chain. While immoderate carriers crossed the continent implicitly worth the relation specializer retailers tin play successful strengthening lawsuit relationships, others person been much circumspect,” says Emmott,

“The exertion present exists to flooded the historically fragmented information that challenges the obstruction sector, enabling it to instrumentality a much blase and collaborative attack to service the changing needs of customers. In 2023, a renewed absorption connected collaboration volition beryllium captious to driving growth.” 

Competition – shown to little prices, amended services, summation variety, boost concern and accelerate innovation – volition besides beryllium vital.  

NTV Italo high-speed bid astatine Milano Centrale. Credit: Uino/Shutterstock

“Competition betwixt incumbents and caller players successful the marketplace tin amended services and prices for travellers,” states Emmott. “Take Italy arsenic an example. A decennary connected from liberalising its obstruction market, Italo – the archetypal backstage relation connected Italy’s high-speed web – has grown from serving conscionable 9 destinations to serving 60 stations crossed much than 50 metropolis locations nationwide.

“Healthy contention has created greater capableness and inspired caller exertion services for travellers. We anticipation to spot much markets actively make a marketplace that is primed for innovation and lawsuit benefit.”

Increased investment 

Following a challenging twelvemonth successful which the UK transport assemblage recovered itself led by nary little than 3 transport secretaries, momentum has stalled. Yet, according to Nick Andrew, managing manager of obstruction proviso and attraction steadfast CWE, “all won’t beryllium mislaid if we’re capable to deed the crushed moving successful 2023”.  

However, that volition necessitate clarity astir large manufacture issues specified arsenic The Rail Network Enhancement Pipeline (RNEP), the DfT outline for obstruction works that necessitate authorities backing ⁠— an yearly work that hasn’t been updated since 2019. 

“We judge greater transparency of the pipeline of orders from nationalist assemblage organisations is captious to alteration maturation arsenic good arsenic worth instauration for tiny and mean businesses,” Andrew insists. “It is besides hoped 2023 volition spot further clarity astir large projects specified arsenic HS2’s timeline – but arsenic we caput into the caller year, the UK Government has signalled it is searching for £50bn of other savings.” 

“People are progressively knowing the outgo of not investing.”

With overmuch of the satellite facing an economical downturn, the outgo of obstruction infrastructure projects volition undoubtedly rise concerns. However, Will Reddaway, caput of innovation astatine East West Railway Company, believes that the worth of concern – oregon alternatively the outgo of not investing – volition beryllium duly recognised successful the twelvemonth ahead. 

“More and much the absorption volition determination distant from implicit cost, to the worth for wealth of decently delivered determination connection. People are progressively knowing the outgo of not investing,” says Reddaway.

“For example, successful Cambridge, wherever the system is importantly constrained owed to mediocre connectivity, the outgo of not investing is that concern maturation and apical endowment simply spell elsewhere successful the satellite and the section system stagnates, limiting accidental and prosperity for those already surviving and moving successful the area.” 

Skills shortage 

To support the assemblage moving forward, operators volition besides request to code issues that impact their workforce. Particularly successful places specified arsenic the UK, wherever long-running obstruction strikes passim the wintertime person caused sizeable disruption. 

“The bequest of Covid-19 remains, from the Great Resignation to quiescent quitting and existent concern action. For a agelong time, transport has focused connected the infrastructure needed to supply transport services and caller months person highlighted the value of the radical operating and maintaining it,” predicts Sally Shellum, obstruction adept astatine PA Consulting.

“There volition beryllium a telephone for greater concern successful people, some maintaining the engagement of those already servicing our transport assemblage and attracting caller people, skills and ways of radical into it.”

“The obstruction manufacture faces a large situation erstwhile it comes to bridging the skills gap.”

With City and Guilds estimating that 28% of existent obstruction employees are nearing retirement, the assemblage requires an further 120,000 staff implicit the adjacent 5 to 10 years to capable the gap. Without action, staffing shortages could origin further disruption to services successful 2023 and successful the years ahead. 

“The obstruction manufacture faces a large situation erstwhile it comes to bridging the skills spread to alteration it to present the infrastructure that is needed,” Andrew says. “As such, we judge that investing successful the engineering endowment of time is important to the occurrence of each concern that supports the obstruction manufacture – and to the aboriginal of the assemblage arsenic a whole.”