Advances in technology are offering these operators a window to new opportunities: to improve operation efficiency by eliminating the need for traditional manual practices and paper records that are labour intensive, unproductive and not cost-effective; and facilitate the shift to automation, remote condition monitoring, and an intelligent and predictive maintenance regime where maintenance can be conducted more effectively based on need or the condition of the operating assets rather than simply based on traditional routine preventative maintenance schedules and real time diagnostics capability.

France is a good example of where rail operators are set to take the initiative on improving asset performance. In July, the French Ministry of Ecological Transition launched expressions of interest in projects that deliver decarbonisation and digitalisation of rail transport with €250m available to support these initiatives. Among the ideas is to introduce lightweight trains, digitalise the rail network, and increase automation. The scheme is part of the “Relaunch France” post Covid-19 investment programme.

Delivering improvements in rail efficiency might have seemed fanciful just a few years ago. However, the evolution in digital ICT technology and innovative solutions are already available to facilitate this process. With more new lines opening and the requirement for densely-loaded lines, converged ICT can help rail operators to unlock new opportunities. Among them is Huawei’s Urban Rail Cloud 2.0, a smart rolling stock operation and maintenance (Smart O&M) solution.

Data is the oil of the fourth industrial revolution, but it not easy to collect and leverage for further decision making using traditional manual methods.Piecing together individual data points enables operators to have better situation awareness on the health condition of the operation assets, helping them to make informed decisions about possible timely actions and improvement initiatives. To maximise the effectiveness of such a process and achieve more intelligent analysis, it is essential for operators to make the data collection process as efficient as possible. Urban Rail Cloud 2.0 can do exactly this by building a big data monitoring and security evaluation system for urban rail vehicles and by setting up a smart O&M and security assurance system to improve the security, safety and efficiency of operations.

At the heart of the solution is Huawei’s 5G Airflash Microwave, which supports ultra-broadband, intelligent and secure train-to-ground data transfer from Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices and sensors to the cloud. Ultra-broadband offers data transfer rates of more than 1.5gbit/s or 10GB every minute. The system also offers intelligent alignment with automatic and complete uploading while providing automatic encryption for enhanced data integrity and security.

Shenzhen Metro was the first metro in China to merge onboard device data with trackside system data, and on the 52km Line 11, which runs between Bitou and Futian stations, this has helped to reduce the time it takes to analyse the 25GB of video data retrieved from the one-hour journey from 90 minutes manually to just 150 seconds.

More intelligent analysis is achieved by taking advantage of the latest advances in Artificial Intelligence. For example, AI-powered video analysis technology is applied to onboard video recordings, making it possible to analyse anything from the behaviour of the driver to potential safety hazards or unsafe acts or a lost baggage item, or the status and condition of the pantograph and OCS system. This process helps to identify any potential faults before they become an incident that could disrupt operation. The system can analyse around 200 hours of video data per day, offering an accuracy rate of more than 80%. China Railway-Xi’an was able to transform traditional maintenance practices from relying on manual spot checks to an AI-based comprehensive analysis and is already reaping the benefits, including reducing safety issues by 10%, manpower costs, and eliminating mundane repetitive or routine activities that are prone to human error.

In addition, Urban Rail Cloud 2.0’s integrated monitoring system for rolling stock running gear is set to provide enhanced engineering applications such as converged analysis, asset health management and asset life prediction. By implementing these systems, it is estimated to reduce the work required by nearly 30,000 hours during the entire 40-year lifespan of a train and reduce direct maintenance costs by around $US 20m.

Multiple achievements and successes in the urban rail business cannot be realised without industry cooperation and an open ecosystem. Indeed, Huawei’s systems(ICT products and solutions) are now operational on more than 170 railway lines in more than 70 cities worldwide, and the company’s technology is set to help cities to make the very best of the new metro lines currently under construction.

Rail transport is diving into digitalisation, in common with the world. Huawei will host Huawei Connect 2021 online from September 23 to October 31, complete with live broadcasts, digital exhibitions, and the opportunity to connect with industry experts. The theme of this year's event is “Dive into Digital” and Huawei will dive deep into the practical application of technologies like the cloud, AI, and 5G in the transport industry, and how they can make different types of transport more efficient, more versatile, and ultimately more resilient as we move towards economic recovery.

Please click here to register and attend the event.