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30-year technical strategy that could boost capacity on the railway

14 December 2012

New technology could boost the capacity of the railway and allow train operators to run more trains, more often, and more efficiently.


The new Rail Technical Strategy maps out opportunities to transform the railway over the next 30 years.

Together with the Association of Train Operating Companies we've joined forces with the Rail Safety and Standards Board and the rest of the industry in the Technical Strategy Leadership Group in preparing a strategy to make the most of existing technologies and foster new ideas in areas which have the potential to transfer technology from other sectors to railway applications – including nanotechnology.

“We cannot work on one part of the system without affecting another, so we know that our approach has to be holistic, from the way the track relates to the trains and the trains to the signalling.

By working together as an industry we have already unlocked opportunities for innovation – and new funding – and the potential to develop more innovative approaches to running the railway has been recognised.”

Steve Yianni, Network Rail technical director and the chair of the Technical Strategy Leadership Group 

European Rail Traffic Management System

Examples of technology the Railway Technical Strategy sees as having an impact include the European Rail Traffic Management System, an in-cab signalling system that we're working on with the Association of Train Operating Companies and the rest of the rail industry.

Lineside signalling maintenance costs £100m a year and by enabling traffic management to move inside the trains, and reducing the number of control centres, large cost saving can be made while maintaining and improving upon safety and capacity.

Preventative maintenance

Another key driver of greater efficiency and reliability identified by the Rail Technical Strategy is preventative maintenance.

We've been developing automated methods of inspecting the tracks and have also been further developing remote asset monitoring. Similarly, around 40 per cent of trains are already equipped with diagnostic technology which allows the units to detect potential faults as they develop.


The Rail Technical Strategy also calls for a greater spread of 25kv electrification – due in the next 10 years on the Midland main line and the Great Western main line – including bringing it to areas currently fitted with third rail electrification, to take advantage of greater transmission efficiency and provide enhanced capacity.