5 quick questions to Ian Dean, Network Rail

What is the role of Network Rail in the project In2Track3?

– I participate in In2Track3 as a task leader for the Big Data Analytics which is a sub task in WP 3. The objective is to find patterns in existing data set to give new insights using Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning. We are focused on track geometry deterioration and how it is affected by multivariable analysis. And we plan to have a technical demonstrator that potentially could predict track geometry deterioration more accurately.

Where can you see the big benefit from the project In2Track3? How will Europe benefit from it?

– Our approach can potentially improve on the false positives but also give insights on traffic density and weather relation effects. This could inform on impacts of timetable and climate change.

What does this mean for the work against climate change?

– Climate change and the strive to reduce greenhouse gas and CO2e emissions should be an opportunity for rail as a far less polluting mode of transport. While transport as a whole is now the largest emitter of GHGs in the UK, rail transport only accounts for about 3% of the total emissions in the transport sector, and significant environmental benefits can be achieved by making rail transport the mode of choice. It is vital that rail is shown to be competitive and a viable option to take freight away from diesel HGVs and to encourage the general population away from petrol and diesel cars. All railways suffer both financial and resource challenges in the field of R&D making collaborative research more advantageous where the burden and cost can be more widely shared.

What will be the role of Network Rail in Shift2Rail in the future?

– My current understanding is that we still wish a seat at the table for SHIFT2RAIL2 despite Brexit. I would be disappointed if we were not able to share experience and wisdom amongst fellow railway engineers both within Europe and further afield, as cross industry approval based on common standards and requirements offers significant efficiencies to learn and adopt technology more rapidly. Remaining plugged into the Horizon 2020 ethos for the next generation of track is a must for us and my understanding is that we wish to come as a contributing member. Railways bring economic boom to every location they are connected too. Preserving that connectivity is how we get goods, people and commerce flowing in the most optimized way.

What are the future challenges?

– A big challenge will be around the successful implementation of new technology and making sure the benefits from a wide range of research is realized. Railways need to turn more ideas into practice rather than papers and journal articles.

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