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Porterbrook invests in the digital railway

Future Cities Forum has been speaking with Porterbrook, one of the UK's leading rolling stock leasing and maintenance companies, about the partnership it has entered into with Microsoft Data and Artifical Intellgence Partner Elastacloud.

This is part of Porterbrook's strategy to invest in the digital railway and is expected to achieve efficiency benefits for its' customers as well as rail users. Under the terms of the agreement Elastacloud will share its AI intellectual property with Porterbrook to deliver improvements across train performance and maintenance optimisation.

Elastacloud mines data in the aerospace, retail and energy sectors, and has teams of data scientists in England and in Spain.

Porterbrook CEO Mary Grant said: 'We are enormously excited to be working with Elastacloud. Our industry produces large volumes of data that we all too easily ignore. By intelligently analysing this data we can make real improvements to both customer fleets and passenger journeys.'

IT Director of Porterbrook, Andrew Swingewood, stated in an interview with Future Cities Forum that:

'In aviation the use of data analytics and AI is well embedded but the rail industry has some catching up to do. Bombardier UK has been using it so now Porterbrook is trying to make it centre stage.'

'We are moving from a rear view mirror model to a more predictive approach, so that we are much better prepared for any problems that might occur - and these may vary from axle maintenance and air-conditioning in carriages, to potentially helping Network Rail with track data'.

Network Rail has laid out plans to move towards a digital railway, which allows trains, stations and tracks to communicate with each other wirelessly and in real time. This follows the government's proclaimed aim that digital rail technology will ensure that the best use is made of the £48 billion being invested in railway modernisation between 2019 and 2024.

Andrew concluded: 'The Department of Transport has been running an open data programme, and I believe that (the rail industry) needs a data market-place to prevent silos and bottle-necks.'

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