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Rail and Metro Innovation Guide 2018www.SmartRailWorld.com35. It's twins! Digital twins... Okay, perhaps this is a bit of a step forward for 2017, but this is something that by 2020 we'll see becoming more mainstream and expect to see progress over the next 12 months. So what's a digital twin? It's in effect a software model of a physical thing (or system) which can be used to analyse and simulate real world conditions, responds to changes to the original and improve operational performances. Of particular interest for rail and metro, digital twins can help create a deeper understanding and assessment of maintenance, and bring the work of engineers and data scientists closer together. The giant Crossrail (on completion to be known as the Elizabeth Line) in London has a digital twin model of the whole network and these virtual depictions of physical assets combined with digital representations of facilities, systems and environments will increasingly offer a detailed virtual view of the real world.6.Disruptors keep on disrupting.To quote a popular meme seen almost daily on LinkedIn: "Uber, the world's largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world's most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world's largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening."High profile companies like Uber, Lyft, Ola, Gett and their ilk, have in a short period already shaken up the personal transport landscape. At their heart (along with that of Airbnb) is an ability to leverage spare capacity, monetize it and then expand quickly without large investment. Capacity and investment are two of the biggest challenges in public transport. What will emerge this year to further aid this challenge… or damage public transport? The cost of an Uber is sometimes already comparable with public transport. What happens when it becomes cheaper to be chauffeur driven than hop on the train?7. China are making allies.We've all closely followed the growth of Chinese rail these past few years, and the amazing statistics that have come with it (more high-speed rail lines in the past decade than the rest of the world ever, etc.) but one change we've seen in 2017 and will see more in 2018, is the growth of alliances and partnerships between Chinese firms and Western companies. Anyone who attended the 2016 edition of Innotrans couldn't have failed to spot the huge Chinese exhibition spaces. But perhaps the most interesting development was the announcement of the partnership between China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC), the world's largest rolling stock manufacturer and TÜV NORD the German technical service, with co-operation aiming sharpen the Chinese firm's adherence to international safety standard (pictured above). 2017 has seen an announcement that State railway group China Railway Corp and Hong Kong-based international transport operator MTR Corp signed a letter of intent to explore strategic co-operation 'within and outside of' China aiming to support the Chinese rail industry's 'Go-Global' strategy. The partnership will aim to work across sectors including high speed, rail operations, transport-related integrated property development and staff training. Who needs rivals when you can have allies?