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NEAR2050 - future challenges for the rail sector

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NEAR2050 (NEAR2050 - future challenges for the rail sector)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2018-04-30

The demographic and technological changes that we are experiencing will continue and will greatly influence people’s mobility.
Whatever systems are put in place must cover aspects such as, efficiency, affordability, quality, comfort, accessibility, punctuality and reliability, flexibility, information and value for money. These long-term needs and expectations need to be analysed to get a better understanding about them. However, it is equally important to analyse megatrends and future Scenarios regarding mobility.
The railway industry, one of the most long-term oriented industries existing, is now facing the faster and faster life cycles of its most competitive transport mode, the road transport sector and its related technologies. The competitive situation of the rail industry is suffering from its lack of flexibility and from the far better “client orientation” of other modes. To overcome such a backlog the rail industry has to anticipate trends and developments at an earlier stage and has to adjust its system accordingly.

The main objective of the project NEAR2050 is to study the future demand on the railway sector, determining which variables affect railway services the most. To define users’ behaviour and the most important variables, it is necessary to establish what are the customer’s opinions and variables that condition their choices when choosing a transport mode. Thanks to this, future user behaviour can be predicted, and future railways demand can be enhanced.

NEAR2050 combined both qualitative and quantitative analysis to answer the objectives regarding the future challenges of the rail sector until the year 2050. Current user requirements and the technical and societal needs were identified by focus groups and expert interviews all over Europe as well as by online surveys with a lot of participation from all kind of stakeholder of the rail sector.
The future expectations and trends were identified by expert interviews and focus groups again using face to face interviews as well as online surveys, by discrete choice models of modal share and the future preferences of users and by trend analysis with statistical evaluations of consistency and qualitative future projections of these trends and their influence on the rail system.
NEAR2050 delivered detailed investigation of user requirements (passengers and freight) now and in future. NEAR2050 delivered 16 relevant personas with 16 future mini-Scenarios describing the personas journey through their rail usage. S2R can adopt to these classifications and change the top down examination about user requirements in general and in holistic determination but go on to more explicit and user-centric observation of the railway system.
This offers the chance to bring in a paradigm shift concerning “standardised or individualised services for users”.

What is the lesson for Railway?
Railway 4.0 has to address the service design thinking principle of co-creation with all users of the rail sector. The message must not be a train is a transport means from A to B. Railway 4.0 has to postulate to be a transport service that understands users and brings individual and customised service to each stakeholder.
The user convenience is a big issue for service quality. Traveling with Railway 4.0 must become a statement of satisfaction again.
Consumers now have more choice, more information at their fingertips, and more opportunities than ever before to create their own products and Services.
To do so, service have to be concepted and offered not as general and in same extend to all users but considering the aspect of customization. The key principle is to understand the user’s world. S2R has to know the expectations or even great wishes to be fulfilled.
Of course, for excellence of transport services the seamless transport from A to B has to coordinate different modes of transport as well. Railway 4.0 has to be the central touchpoint for customised services.

Concerning technology aspects, NEAR2050 contacted lots of railway experts and found out that technology provided for trains is not the bottleneck. Here, governance and legislative boundary conditions have to be widened in order to ensure smooth and uncomplicated transport services. Technologies will be further developed, and the European Railway system therefore is on the right track. The interaction with users is the more crucial point.

Therefore, Railway 4.0 needs a paradigm shift. It needs more freedom for decisions on business models (e.g. manufactures will provide availability not trains itself anymore), more integration of digital and transport service suppliers to get fit for future. Companies must embed a consumer-first mentality even deeper into their corporate cultures. Consumers must be the focus of business strategies and initiatives. Companies must stay on top of rapidly changing consumer preferences and expectations. They need to be agile in order to continue shaping and enhancing consumer experiences. As a consequence, railway has to open itself and invite complementary service providers to bring in their benefits for users. Other transport modes have done this already and addressed lots of more users.

Dissemination activities that were carried out as part of NEAR2050 were designed to highlight the ongoings and results of the project as well as and the activities of Shift2Rail in general. In addition to this they provided the opportunity for stakeholders to provide feedback with regards to the direction that the project is going. These dissemination activities were carried out through a combination of workshops, expert interviews focus groups, an online presence through the project website and twitter account, publication of scientific documents, exposure on industry websites, external conferences, and the project’s own final conference.
The NEAR2050 project should help Shift to Rail initiative to improve and enhance rail sector in Europe.

Within the railways system there are three fundamental pillars with highest potential Impact:
• People, users and customers. It has been seen that user satisfaction is essential for their railways future survival. It means that railway transport has to serve society. Therefore, the study must first be directed to the requirements and needs of this in railway matter. Another question is passenger safety. Influencing variables and key factors are crucial for the future of this transport mode.
• Services. The railroad has to provide not only a mere transport from one origin to a destination but more services (on board or at stations). Comfortability, reliability can make it very competitive compared to other modes such as air transport. Railways must offer safety, comfort and confidence.
• Infrastructure and operations. First, design, construction and maintenance must be energy efficient. It is necessary to provide more reliable materials with a longer life cycle, capable of maintaining circulation under comfort and safety conditions. We must try to reduce the complexity and the number of operations.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) related to relevant aspects for railways: green, cost effective, social inclusive, resilient, safe and secure, are needed. In this way the performance of the system and the most-effective and future-fit interaction between these elements can be monitored and improved.