Our major roads, railways and airports are increasingly running at or near full capacity for longer periods of time; not just in rush hour.
And with population growth in major cities set to continue, transport systems are coming under unprecedented levels of pressure. London for example is forecast to have 10M residents by 2030. So how can transport operators continue to meet this demand and move people safely, comfortably, quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively?
Despite the cutting-edge technologies that make sure our current infrastructure networks function to their full capacity, we are nevertheless approaching the point where it will be physically impossible to move more trains through a railway or more cars down a section of road. With land, financial and economic constraints, it simply isn’t feasible to add another lane to every motorway, commission five new high speed lines and build more runways. So we have to improve the way our existing infrastructure operates.
This means ensuring that all modes of transport work seamlessly together, so that every journey is affordable, environmentally-friendly, comfortable and reliable, with relevant information communicated to passengers throughout their journey, and managing energy in a way that until now has not been possible.
The technology to deliver this exists today, but not in an integrated way. Management systems for car parks, mainline railways, metros and traffic control are all highly sophisticated and effective, yet they all tend to operate in isolation.
By analysing commuter patterns and fully understanding the travelling public’s needs, we are developing intelligent solutions. These include integrated traffic management to enable faster, more efficient journeys; and smart parking at stations to keep commuters informed in real time about parking availability. Accurate and timely information is at the heart of much of this development, enabling travellers to make smart decisions about their journeys.
It is now possible to envisage a journey where a commuter is directed to the closest available parking space at the railway station and leaves their electric car on charge for the day – with any surplus stored energy being fed back into the system to power up the trains during peak hours. A mobile phone alert then confirms this commuter’s train is on time and their seat reservation. Shortly before arriving at the destination, a new alert informs them that, due to a passenger incident, their preferred metro line isn’t operating, but by taking an alternative line they will only be delayed by two minutes – and there is space at the front of the train.
These systems are all in development, and as a provider of trains, rail signalling and control systems, and road traffic control systems, we are uniquely placed to work with other stakeholders – cities, architects, planners, infrastructure providers etcetera – to help create a truly integrated mobility network.
● Gordon Wakeford is managing director of Siemens Mobility Division UK
- In association with Siemens