February 14, 2017

SBB launches 2020 strategy to harness new technology

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SBB launches 2020 strategy to harness new technology David Gubler

SWISS Federal Railways (SBB) has launched a new strategy which aims to combine its existing strengths with new technology to enable it to increase capacity, offer door-to-door journeys, and develop digital stations and smart freight wagons.


SBB says it has developed its 2020 strategy in consultation with customers, employees, partners and policymakers in order to adapt the railway to a rapidly changing world characterised by new customer requirements, digitalisation, new transport providers and regulatory developments. SBB says it needs to adapt as other modes of transport are catching up in terms of price and environmental advantage, and there is an increasing demand for personalised, intermodal, networked and simple mobility and logistics solutions.

 

SBB is already trying to reduce the rise in overall costs so that its services remain affordable under its current “RailFit20/30” programme, but it also wants to boost earnings and capacity utilisation.

SBB says it is introducing a new group-wide innovation management system to promote an innovative spirit, and is establishing a SFr 12m ($US 12m) innovation fund. “The aim is to use innovations to create actual services as quickly as possible,” SBB says, but with the proviso that if they are unsuccessful it will remove them from the market.

SBB believes that digitalisation will enable it to increase capacity on a network, which it claims is already the most heavily used in the world, by up to 30%. To achieve this, SBB is furthering the automation of timetable creation, rail operations and train control and is also looking into the possibility of remote-controlled trains. SBB is designing a new digital signalbox which will reduce the quantity and variety of signalling installations, thereby cutting costs substantially.

“The railway technology of the future means that the railway system can be used in a more efficient way,” SBB says. “From 2025, there will be more trains in use, shorter timetable intervals, fewer disruptions, improved radio connections and more precise customer information in the event of a disruption.” SBB says it has launched initiatives to achieve these objectives.

Track maintenance is being digitalised using a new system called SwissTamp for status analysis and maintenance planning, which should reduce the number of disruptions and improve reliability and punctuality.

The new version of the ticketing app SBB Mobile has attracted more than 150,000 new users, and is now used regularly by 3 million customers. In the first quarter of 2017 SBB will launch a voice control function with a speaking timetable and a speaking robot to provide other information.

The new SBB Trip Planner app will enable customers to compare, combine and book a journey using multiple modes of transport. Passengers will also be able to use the app to book taxi and Uber services.

SBB is developing what it describes as a simple, environmentally-friendly door-to-door service called SBB Green Class and is teaming up with ETH Zurich to research the mobility behaviour of the general public. The findings will provide SBB with information about customers’ requirements for door-to-door mobility, so that it can launch new services.

SBB is transforming its stations into networked, multimodal hubs encompassing digital departure and arrival boards, screens with real-time train information, advertising e-panels, touchscreen ticket machines and free Wi-Fi. SBB is working with organisations such as Google and ETH Zurich to improve station services. Passengers will be able to access a virtual view of the station in Google Street View, and such things as escalators, lifts and lights will be controlled digitally via the Internet of Things.

For freight, SBB plans to install sensors in its wagons to measure temperature, vibrations, and the wagon’s location. The latter will enable customers to track their freight in real time. In 2018, SBB Cargo plans to introduce automatic wagon coupling.

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