Using Rich Data to Improve Travel Times

Sydney and Melbourne are expanding their rail networks to improve travel times for commuters. Learn how data and automation support this.


Network operators in Australia and around the world are doing their best to closely monitor the performance of train services to ensure
they’re delivering the best possible experience for passengers. But without the right data, this can become a bit of a guessing game.

Technical, passenger and financial information can all be used to better understand how a network operates. By knowing who is using the service,
where from, and how frequently, operators will be able to analyse this data and improve the network’s overall performance.

This is particularly critical for cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, where the population is increasing at a rapid rate. Keep reading to learn more.

Australia’s most liveable cities

Australia has some of the most liveable cities in the world, regularly ranking in the top 5 of the Global Liveability Report. But one of the biggest challenges for the future is how these two cities go from having a population of five million people, to having over eight million people and still ranking for liveability.

Adrian Dwyer, Chief Executive of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (APA) says, “I don’t see a way you can do that without a metro-style mass transit system.”

Sydney is already in the process of improving their transport system. Given NSW’s population is forecast to increase to more than nine million people by 2027, with the majority of that centralised in Sydney, better transport is a priority for the city. Their new network will be able to carry approximately 40,000 people per hour, almost double the 24,000 it can currently carry.

In Melbourne, annual expenditure on rail maintenance and renewals across the city exceeds $300 million (AUD). Given the enormous population growth Melbourne has seen over the past few years (adding over 300 people per day), it makes sense why improved transport is also one of the city’s priorities.

Not just bigger networks – but better efficiency

But ensuring train networks improve the liveability of our cities is more than just expanding the reach of the lines. They need to run more efficiently as well. This means more trains, more often, without avoidable delays – all of which can be achieved through the right technology and data.

Data through the Internet of Things

The rail industry is becoming more and more reliant on technology as time goes by. A part of the Internet of Things (IoT), almost all of the systems that monitor and maintain the network are now connected via the Internet, allowing for real-time capture and storage of crucial data.

By having access to this data, rail operators are able to minimise delays across lines and improve the network’s overall efficiency. Examples of the systems that are now a part of the IoT include:

  • Onboard communications – let train drivers and passengers alike understand what’s happening on their journey, such as delays or changes in route.
  • Rail temperature monitoring – provide real-time temperature readings on different sections of the track, so that train drivers can adjust speed as required, rather than setting an overall restriction.
  • High-capacity signalling – dynamically adjust train speeds and braking to maintain safe stopping distances between trains for drivers.
  • Ticketing information – understand where people tap on and tap off, as well as how frequently they use public transport and at what times.
  • And more

Data-fuelled automation

A key-factor to improving the efficiency of rail networks is the implementation of automation – but automation that is data-focused. This means looking into driverless trains that operate based from data and technology delivered to rail operators through the IoT.

By limiting the space for human error, train networks will be able to deliver a more efficient service, maximising capacity and improving travel times. Picture trains zooming in and out of stations every four minutes – sounds very liveable!

How networks around the world are improving travel times

On the world stage, Australia is only beginning when it comes to incorporating data and automation into its networks. Singapore, as an example, has the world’s largest automated network, with 126 kilometres of automated lines. This is followed closely by Kuala Lumpur and Dubai – although the forecast is set to triple by 2023, according to the International Association of Public Transport.

All of this suggests that moving forward, we can expect Sydney and Melbourne, and other cities in Australia to continue to expand their capacity for data-gathering and automation. If you want to learn more about the future of rail networks in Australia, subscribe to our blog for further updates.

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