UKRRIN at Unlocking Innovation: Digital Railway – The Future Webinar Series

05th July 2020

UKRRIN are one of the strategic partners of the Railway Industry Association’s highly renowned Unlocking Innovation programme. The Programme aims to creating a platform for cross industry collaboration with an emphasis on the creation and showcasing of new ideas, through a series of events. On the week commencing 29 July, the Unlocking Innovation programme with a series of webinars titled Digital Railway – The Future.

This particular webinar series focussed on how the Digital Railway Programme is evolving into ‘business as usual’ for the Network Rail Regions as the first roll-out projects commence. The event that was open to all allowed cross industry collaboration and ran from 2-3.30pm each day throughout the week.

Day 1: A New Structure for Digital Railway

The webinar series kicked off with ‘’A New Structure for Digital Railway’’, which opened with Nick King the Group Director Network Services from Network Rail who gave delegates an update on the new Network Services Directorate that has been formed during the Network Rail ‘Putting Passengers First’ reorganisation and has incorporated the Freight and National Passenger Operator activities, as well as elements of the Group Digital Railway. The directorate also provided assurance for national operational performance and coordinate national programmes and capabilities. Paul Boyle of LNER then highlighted the importance of the digital railway to train operators, allowing delegates to learn the benefits and challenges of digital railway from a train operator company’s perspective. Network Rail’s Chief Systems Engineer Digital Railway, Andrew Simmons looked at the impact of digital railway systems implementation across the UK rail industry, including technical governance of the programme. The day ended with an elevator pitch by Lucy Prior, Business Engagement Director at 3Squared, who stated that 3Squared’s objective is to help the industry to have the tools to analyse the data.

Day 2: Making it Real

The second day of the programme focused on ‘Making it Real’. The session started with Toufik Machnouk, Network Rail’s Route Programme Director giving a presentation on the ‘East Coast Digital Programme’ (ECDP), the largest UK roll out of digital signalling to date and a cross-industry initiative that will help transform the performance of the East Coast Main Line. Machnouk’s presentation was followed by Ewan Spencer, ETCS onboard Project Director of Siemens Mobility. Siemens are responsible for a significant proportion of the programme for ETCS in-cab signalling to support ECDP. Ewan expanded on the end-to-end system for trains cabs. Andy Stringer, Chief Engineer, who is also from Siemens Mobility continued the conversation by updating attendees on Siemens’ recently confirmed role as the train control partner (TCP) and traffic management partner for the East Coast Digital Programme. Stringer elaborated on the principal supplier’s role and the challenges of this major programme. The day was concluded with two Elevator Pitches from SMEs -Emily Kent, Director of One Big Circle, a specialist in Intelligent Video solutions and Martin Pocock, Development Director for The Oakland Group.

Day 3: The Future Outlook

‘Digital Railway- The Future Outlook’ was the theme for the third day of the webinar series. Martin Jones Network Rail’s Chief Control Command & Signalling Engineer opened the session with a short introduction on the industry challenge and shared asset and industry sustainability issues. Pat McFadden, Head of Technical Policy and Strategy Digital Railway continued the conversation with a talk on ’The Long-Term Deployment Plan’. The plan takes account of the scale and complexity of fitting out in excess of 4,000 trains and the upgrading of more than 19,000 miles of  the network, and shows how modern signalling and train control technology can be delivered in a way that makes the best use of renewals funding and smooths the workload for suppliers. Martin Jones returned to continue the conversation by addressing the industry cost reduction challenge. A key part of this is the Target 190+ Research & Development programme and the Rail Sector Deal which together aim to provide the capability to enable safe, affordable and deliverable signalling to meet the future demands of the railway. Rounding up the conversation on the Sector Deal, Rob Morris, Managing Director of Siemens Mobility and one of two Digital Rail Sector Deal Industry Champions, the other being Shaun Jones of Thales, urged the industry to come together to support the work being undertaken on the Deal.

Delegates heard from UKRRIN’s Rob Hopkin of Birmingham Centre for Rail Research and Education who focussed on the challenge of ramping up industry digital railway skills for CP7. Hopkin described the different post graduate level courses which are available including Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and Masters in various digital railway related courses, as well as a Digital Railway Leadership course. The session closed with a pitch from Simon Rodgers from OODL, experts in self-contained internet of things (IoT) sensors for railway applications.

Day 4: Innovation Squared

The penultimate day themed ‘Digital Railway- Innovation Squared’, focused on innovations which could allow digital railway to deliver even more benefits for customers. Delegates heard from Karl Butler-Garnham, R&D Programme Manager at Network Rail.  Butler-Garnham updated attendees on the Degraded Mode Working System (DMWS), an independent system to provide a movement authority to the train driver if the primary signalling system fails. DMWS is part of Network Rail’s Research & Development Portfolio – its £245M investment programme over CP6 to drive improvements in the safety, performance, and efficiency of Britain’s railway infrastructure. Andrew Simmons, Chief Systems Engineer Digital Railway returned to outline how the Rail Technical Strategy and Network Rail R&D Programmes enable and may accelerate the benefits of ‘Digital Railway’. UKRRIN’s Professor Clive Roberts, Head of the School of Engineering and Director of the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) and Andrew Hunter, Head of Technical Solutions Digital at Thales, detailed their work on a joint development between academia and industry as part of the Rail Sector Deal to automate and accelerate the process of signalling design.

They explained the potential for simulated environments to enable design, testing and authorisation for deployment, reducing the need for costly and time-consuming on-site testing and commissioning. They emphasised the value of a coordinated, cross-industry approach to simulation and validation, adding that they have confidence this is achievable as other industries have made significant progress and there are already examples of many of these aspects in the rail industry.

These examples include signalling suppliers using models for system testing and verification, as well as the West Midlands Railway Digital Twin currently under development, which will support the introduction of a new timetable in 2021.

Finally, James Bain CEO of Worldline and industry champion for the Data Pillar of the Rail Sector Deal focused on the aim of the data pillar to make rail commercial data more available enabling innovation and customer focused products and services.


Day 5: Winning Work

The Series concluded with ‘Digital Railway- Winning Work’. The session opened with David Maddison, Regional Delivery Director for the North and Scotland, at Alstom who is responsible for the Eastern Region Major Signalling Framework. He explained how these new frameworks are focused on Network Rail’s key aim of putting passengers first, spurring innovation and delivering service improvements. Maddison was than joined by a panel of representatives from across the industry who discussed building the supply chain. The panel was made up of representatives of the other two holders of major signalling frameworks; Martin Wright, Head of Rail at Linbrooke, who are delivering the framework in partnership with Hitachi, and Andy Stringer, Chief Engineer of Siemens. The panel was completed by Lucy Prior in her role as Deputy Chair of RIA’s SME Group. David Shipman, Innovations Engineering Manager at Network Rail then gave an update on Network Rail’s Signalling Innovations Group, a structure that enables development of a range of innovative tools and services that drive the goals of reduced signalling costs, increased safety and lower maintenance costs.

Attendees also heard from Jenny Illingsworth of the University of Birmingham regarding the new UKRRIN Centre of Excellence for Digital Systems for the industry, including how it will support digital railway and the system-wide approach to transforming research, development, and innovation. The day concluded with Stephen Bull the Rail Technical Lead at Ebeni Rail who outlined Ebeni’s role as the Independent Safety Assessor on the DMWS project.

The Unlocking Innovation: Digital Railway – The Future Webinar recordings can be found here:


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