Smart Railways in Europe Economy Research Forecast


In helping to shape the future of Europe, rail transport plays a key role. A well-developed rail link network, including a dedicated high-speed rail network, serves more than 1.1 billion passenger kilometers per day and more than 1 billion tonne-kilometers of freight rail transport on demand. The central role of rail transport is recognized in the 2011 ‘Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area’ of the European Commission. According to the market database, rail transport has been a huge contributor to meeting the strategic objectives of smart, stable, and inclusive growth of ‘Europe 2020’.

Although road transport remains the most commonly used means of transportation, demand for passenger rail transport increased by 17% over the past decade. This was propelled in part by the growth of the European High-Speed Rail (HSR) network. The impact of smart railways on the transportation sector can be studied using Global Market Database.

The modal share of passenger railway transport has, however, increased. Due to economic and financial crises, the volume of rail transport plummeted significantly between 2007 and 2009. But subsequently, it was recovered over the past years. By comparison, during the economic downturn, passenger travel remained more stable. According to the procured market database, the highest changes in the passenger modal share of rail transport at the national level can be found in Germany, Denmark, and Austria, with increases of 4.6%, 6.1%, and 11.2% points, respectively.

Valuable Asset for Europe

The highly successful extension of the high-speed rail network and the launch of other technological and customer-service technologies, such as the TGV, ICE, AVE, and Frecciarossa programs, have become European transport flagships and have been extensively replicated worldwide as such. But mostly, in some of the increasingly high-speed integrated countries, this has facilitated a complete transformation in the economy, enabling the transition of expertise and competencies from one country to another without the need for a permanent shift.

The transportation sector states that roughly 400 billion trips are taken annually in European metropolitan regions: 15% by public transport, 30% by non-motorized means, 55% by private vehicle, and 45% by railway. In absolute terms, last year, 8.9 billion people are carried by commuter rail, 9.5 billion by subway, and 8.5 billion by tram/light rail. The development has been impressive in some cities, such as Brussels, where STIB, the local operator, has transported 37% more passengers over the last decade.

Economic Catalyst

According to the market database, the production of skilled labor, acting as a stimulus for economic growth, has been used and supported by rail. The contribution made by rail is higher than the contribution made by either the air or the marine industry. The sources of this contribution vary from major firms exporting engineering and components to a diverse range of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). This growing awareness and research give Europe a leading and competitive advantage in technological growth.

The market database states that over 2.3 million individuals are employed in the railway sector. This refers to the service of trains, infrastructure maintenance, the production and supply of railcars and rail networks, and the supply of other products and services. This provides a GVA of EUR 143 billion for the European economy or 1.1% of its GDP. If larger economic benefits are considered, the cumulative contribution to the economy is expected to sustain up to 4 million jobs in total and to generate EUR 250 billion.

Powered by Data

Connectivity is one of the most critical aspects of smart railways. A smart train uses data in a dual-mode. Firstly, to help passengers and keep them updated, linked, and entertained through carriages and stations with a secure Wi-Fi or 4G link. Secondly, the data is used internally by the transport operator to provide predictive management information and increase the quality of operation. Transport data helps companies to monitor customer movements and continuously advance service in real-time, from smart cards and wireless scan-in tools to passenger-centric applications, such as Citymapper and Moovit.

Data is not only necessary for the entertainment or operation of the service for passengers, but also provides a dramatic difference for travelers with limited mobility. One of the most significant requirements for smart railways is connectivity. Studies state that roughly 87% of the analyzed metro lines are highly accessible and that more than 90% of the total number of stations are designed for riders with limited mobility.

Autonomous Train Operations

Rail vehicles, infrastructure (including stations), and control systems are fully digitalized and networked components of the “internet of things”. Each component is equipped with local artificial intelligence that enables it to deliver goal-oriented tasks with a high degree of autonomy.

Autonomous, adaptive, and highly interactive vehicle combinations are capable of interacting with each other and with smart infrastructure. This implies secure and easy operational processes while working closely together and contributing significantly to reducing life-cycle costs. This means that the next generation of traffic management technologies, such as the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS) and mass transit Connectivity Based Train Control (CBTC), are expected to be successfully implemented.

Smart railways facilitate flexible and precise changes to the patterns of transport demand, improving the capability and versatility of the rail transport infrastructure such as commuter rail, high-speed, freight, rural, and mass transit networks. An unparalleled degree of protection is assured in smart railways such as fully automatic train operation, autonomous vehicles, and intelligent remote-controlled systems. New forms of mobility on rail also enable autonomous operations, such as self-operated light pods/shuttles that provide seamless connectivity across infrastructures.

Driverless Trains

According to the market database roughly, 40 lines across 26 networks worldwide, while 55 lines were counted by the UITP Observatory. About 2,300 km of driverless metro lines will be operating by 2025, according to a report, compared to about 800 km today. Today, 81% of driverless smart railways are assembled in cities. The highest-ranking states according to secondary research include Barcelona and Copenhagen.

The regional mapping for the implementation of Smart Railways can be studied using Global Market Database. The market intelligence tool studies the constant change in market trends.