Digitalization of National Rail Infrastructure

Network Rail focuses its transformation program through smart analytics.

Network Rail

Industry leaders collaborate to transform the United Kingdom's rail network to deliver better passenger experience, enhanced safety and security, improved performance, and operational resilience. 

Industry: Transportation
Location: London, United Kingdom
Size: 42,000 employees
Partner: Intel, Purple Transformation Group, Telent



  • Strengthen security, safety, punctuality, and performance of U.K. rail network
  • Develop data-backed business cases to address the challenges of rail transformation
  • Simplify deployment and technology infrastructure management
  • Enable communication across all locations


  • Staff is alerted to potential safety breaches
  • Greater ability to drive innovation, trial technology, and measure results
  • Simplified management and deployment of network infrastructure and analytics

Upgrading critical rail infrastructure

Network Rail owns and manages much of the United Kingdom's rail infrastructure. This includes 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels, viaducts, and thousands of signals, level crossings, and stations. It manages 20 of the United Kingdom's largest stations.

The task for Network Rail is to operate, maintain, and upgrade this huge, critical estate of national infrastructure. It must do so in a way that maximizes investment value and minimizes disruption, working quickly to adapt to changing travel habits.

Network Rail's Train and Station Innovation for Performance (TSIP) initiative has been trialing technology solutions aimed at delivering demonstrable, quantifiable benefits, and outcomes for the rail network. The business challenges/use cases are grouped under four pillars: better passenger experience, enhanced safety and security, improved performance, and operational resilience.

"We know we can work smarter and improve the railway with an infrastructure driven by data," says Jamie Potter, head of relationships (Telecom Services), Network Rail. "Through TSIP, we've shown how monitoring tools, such as smart cameras and sensors, can give us real time information of what's happening on the ground, that we can respond to quickly for a safer and better railway experience."

Sharing insight to inform decision making

Technology is a key enabler in the transformation of U.K. rail. Network Rail has moved TSIP to a new phase: the Advanced Smart Analytic Programme (ASAP). As part of ASAP, Cisco is collaborating not just with Network Rail but also with industry leaders such as Intel, Telent, and Purple Transformation Group. Together, these collaborations are helping turn ideas into transformative solutions. Cisco Services is leading the ASAP program and providing project management and technical advisory services to Network Rail.

Cisco, Intel, Telent, and Purple Transformation Group each address key technology pain points. Together, they deliver the necessary connectivity and compute power while helping plan the practical impact of the transformation opportunity.

Telent, which has had a 30-year relationship with Network Rail, is tasked with structuring the engagement.

"Our role is to understand the Network Rail vision, wear the high-visibility vests and safety boots, and collaborate with other partners. The goal is to bring Cisco concepts, systems, designs, and engineering into operation on the ground," says Kevin Bonnano, director of rail, Telent.

We've shown how monitoring tools, such as smart cameras and sensors, can give us real time information of what's happening on the ground, that we can respond to quickly for a safer and better railway experience.

Jamie Potter, Head of Relationships (Telecom Services)

The Cisco network acts as the foundation of Network Rail's data-driven rail infrastructure, but the next stage of transformation requires much greater visibility from Network Rail's assets. ASAP has had success in the development of a Smart Analytics capability.

The base layer of Smart Analytics is Cisco Meraki smart cameras and sensors, connected by Cisco LoRaWAN technology. Meraki smart cameras have embedded analytics capability to detect objects, such as people and vehicles, and can be trained to recognize other objects, such as abandoned luggage or bicycles. The centralized, cloud-managed architecture is ideally suited for deployments at stations and remote locations. The use of cloud-managed Meraki cameras simplifies the task of deploying quickly or temporarily.

This analytics data is then consumed by Purple Transformation Group's SiYtE platform, which aggregates analytics data to provide visibility for staff, create insights, and alert the appropriate staff member in case of events such as trespassing.

Cisco has worked closely with Intel, using Intel-based compute solutions to drive analytics. Given the number of safety and operational use cases, Network Rail wanted the most reliable processing available. As much of this data will be generated at the edge, reliability is crucial.

"Enabling IoT [Internet of Things] data from cameras and sensors to be gathered and processed at the edge where the device is located enables operators to make data-driven decisions benefiting the staff, passengers, and public alike," says Rajiv Gupta, global sales development manager, Intel.

Establishing a platform on which to manage use cases

The SiYtE platform service allows Network Rail to interpret the huge amount of newly gathered data, taking data from multiple sources including Meraki cameras and IoT sensors and presenting it on a common interface. SiYtE then provides an interface delivering insights and tracking benefits in key areas such as customer experience, infrastructure utilization and operation, revenue and costs impacts, or safety outcomes across a variety of use cases.

This approach succeeds because it can deliver a tailored user experience. Activity on the platform can be shared across the organization, arming business units with the intelligence, benchmarking, and insights needed to assess the viability of individual use cases.

"We're focusing on continuous, incremental change that our own people can make happen from the information and insights they'll have right in front of them," says Potter. "Our partners are key—they know how to apply the technology to solve everyday problems on our railway and help us innovate at pace."

The approach helps Network Rail avoid being overwhelmed with data. It identifies use cases at a local level within the four-pillar framework, then provides Network Rail with the data it needs to build a business case around a national rollout. It brings the assurance of technologies currently being used within other industries: the remote monitoring of solar panels for utility companies, emissions monitoring in mining, queue management in healthcare, or inventory tracking in logistics.

Rolling out data-driven transformation use cases

The engagement with Cisco equips Network Rail with the data, connectivity, and deployment details to accelerate the rollout of targeted, transformational use cases. It enables Network Rail to deliver a broad range of upgrades, meeting many different criteria, from cost savings to passenger safety to environmental monitoring.

There is great diversity in the multiple use cases. For example: camera-based asset identification and tagging help to ensure no maintenance equipment is left trackside; sensors can detect and monitor ground stability, moisture content, and temperature to assess the risk of landslides; temperature and humidity sensors help predict slippery platforms and provide suitable warning and remedial actions; lone passengers can be monitored remotely to verify their safety and security; or swift detection of suspicious packages or trespassers provides a means of addressing delay-prone situations as soon as they occur.

Together, these targeted improvements demonstrate a commitment to creating a safer, more efficient, punctual, and pleasant rail experience for U.K. travelers. They enable Network Rail to present itself as an innovative, forward-facing organization.