Looking at the Future of Rail Transport and New Mobility Services
It is a topic of strategic importance for our industry, and I felt it appropriate that RSSB look into it from a horizon scanning perspective. To do so, RSSB has partnered with the new Connected Places Catapult, which aims to accelerate smarter living and travelling in and between the places of tomorrow.
The advent of New Mobility Services
Driven by technological innovation in wireless connectivity, sensor networks, location data, digitization and social media platforms, new passenger transport options have developed in dense urban areas, inviting us to rethink mobility.
Whether they take the form of car sharing, bike sharing, ride hailing, ride sharing, microtransit solutions (eg. small buses on demand), Mobility-as-a-Service (integrated transport bundles), or shared autonomous vehicles, New Mobility Services (NMS) have the potential to blur the line between public and private transport, between owned and shared vehicles.
NMS operate a shift from traditional scheduled transport towards user-centric and on-demand mobility solutions which embody the idea that transport should be responsive to the needs and preferences of travellers and of society.
The imperative of Transport Integration and the future of rail
Growing urbanisation, physical limits to infrastructure, high parking demand, congestion and pollution, all these drivers call for a multimodal integrated transport system which is not car-centric.
While it is not easy to agree on a definition of what great transport integration may look like, it is clear that a systems approach is needed, to consider from the lens of transport customers the interdependencies between modes, and between mobility providers.
The potential of NMS to disrupt traditional transport varies of course with local conditions; however, it is safe to assume that their impact is bound to be big in Europe, due to the predominance of dense urban areas, with already good transportation networks, and declining car ownership. NMS are usually not used as sole means of transport but are very often combined with public transit. In fact, the more people use NMS the more they are likely to take public transport as part of their journey.
This said, the ability of rail to derive benefits from the NMS revolution will depend on our aptitude to forge new relationships with thousands of UK transport businesses in order to create smart new ecosystems. I think NMS is less of a threat and more of an opportunity for rail to increase the value we add to customers, but we have to rethink our business model, whether we go for an “expanded services” model, new strategic alliances to provide end-to-end intermodal journeys, or digital platforms with data aggregators.
Hot topics of this series
With this series, RSSB and the Connected Places Catapult will jointly cover a number of aspects, and I am particularly looking forward to reading more on the centrality of passenger data, smart demand management, and enriched customer experience.
I am also glad that this series plans to look explicitly into rail freight, which contributes significantly to the UK economy and plays a big part in reducing congestion and carbon emissions. However, rail is a small part of the total freight movements which are likely to continue to increase in size and complexity over next 10 years and see a greater adoption of automation and other innovations.
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Next week, James Datson, Principle Technologist, Customer Experience, at the Connected Places Catapult, will describe how New Mobility Services could put passengers at the heart of mobility.