Innovation

13 July 2016

Blog

Rail hasn’t changed in the last 200 years

Rail freight transport is an impressive 200 years old. And in all that time, hardly anything has changed. Yes, today’s freight trains look more colourful, more streamlined and are a little faster. But that’s nothing compared to the massive changes road transportation has undergone in the last few years alone. No wonder that rail freight has been surpassed by road transport. 

Stealing like an artist to reinvent rail

It’s time to change tracks. If the rail industry wants to play a part in tomorrow’s freight transport, it will have to reinvent itself. Innovation is key, and there’s a lot that can be learned from other industries. 

Buying a plane ticket online? It’s extremely easy and everyone’s doing it. Now image being able to book rail freight transport from your place of business to, let’s say, Warsaw, just as easily online. Wouldn’t that be amazing? And imagine, in addition, being able to take your pick from a wide range of departure and transit times, prices, and so on. That’s the ease of use a rail freight transport client has every right to expect. 

And it’s perfectly feasible, too! But, evidently, it also requires solving that age-old rail problem called “where’s my cargo?” Nowadays it takes a Master of Rail Operations Management if you want to make sense of all the tangled systems, position codes, wagon statuses and so on to track down a 120 ton loaded freight wagon somewhere between Duisburg and Antwerp and determine its arrival time. Yet that doesn’t mean the solutions aren’t within reach; we only have to implement them. 

I am convinced that trains can be assembled more efficiently as well. Most warehouses today are fully automated, staffed with robots collecting goods and preparing them for dispatch. This type of automation can easily be translated to a marshalling yard. Self-driving locomotives could group wagons that could be coupled automatically, where they’d connect to trains taking them directly to their final destination. 

Some progress has been made, but a lot remains to be done. Rail industry needs to be made much more efficient, accessible and easy to work with. By implementing concepts that have proven their worth in other industries, we can boost our products, our performance, the quality of our service, and the overall-quality of the rail industry. Only then will rail become the go-to option for freight transport. 

We are changing rail freight operations

We may not be the biggest rail freight operator in Europe, but there’s no limit to our ambition. We want to be a pioneer leading rail into the 21st century. We have multiple teams working around the clock to turn the concepts outlined above into a reality as we speak. Also together with our customers we are looking for ways to tune our rail offering better in to their supply chain. We believe that we can make things happen by putting our imagination to work. That’s why we challenge and encourage all of our employees to contribute to our vision for the future of the rail industry. Many of their ideas have already been implemented and have had a major impact on our operational processes. 

It is our ambition to go for 100% digital in order to be able to make the most out of big data.We need to keep track of how we can modernize our sector even more. The innovations and applications we are designing and implementing today may seem small to some, but when combined their impact is huge. 

We are always on the lookout for entrepreneurial, creative spirits and great minds to help shape the future of rail. Together we can create the products, services and performance needed to realise the modal shift to real. 

Feeling inspired? Do you wish to learn more about Lineas’ innovative approach?

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