Rail is a mode of mass transport which fits perfectly into a wider concept of mobility characterised by an integration of multiple modes of transport, including public and private transport. In this context, rail could be the backbone for future mobility.
Creating extra capacity on the railways can be challenging, however. Additional rail infrastructure is expensive and can require, for example, significant amounts of land. Often there are more efficient ways of using existing infrastructure to create an integrated mobility system.
New technologies such as sensor technology for rail infrastructure, intelligent algorithms for predicting different kinds of events occurring in transport, and real time data are contributing to improve the efficiency of existing systems and their integration. Using new technologies would also enhance the notion of seeing stations as mobility hubs, where customers get easy access and transfer to other modes of transport.
Complex journey options and differences between urban and rural areas need to be considered to get concepts in place, which are affordable and reliable for the entire mobility chain a customer wants to use. One size fits all will not apply here. Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) is just one new way of rethinking and integrating existing mobility concepts, with its ability to link first and last mile journeys.
The integration of different modes of transport will be key to future mobility. This includes transparent and integrated information, timetables, clear systems for handling disruptions, fare systems and ticketing. To make future mobility attractive, easy access and easy use are an important factor for success. This includes data for journey planning, real time information for the entire journey, support and alternative routing in case of disruptions, personalisation of journey options through algorisms examining previous journeys, simple pricing systems and terms and conditions and seamless ticketing solutions. There are already systems on the market covering seamless ticketing and pricing across different modes of transport which can be extended.
However, there will be some challenges. On the legal side, for example, around ownership of customer data or responsibility for data quality like real time information. Appropriate funding models will need to be clarified and the balance between public/private funding discussed, and how this fits with commercial interests.
Ultimately, the future of mobility is all about being focused on future customer needs, allocating resources in the most efficient way, integrating and connecting modes of transport, and using modern technology where possible to provide future mobility suitable for different needs in different areas in a country.
About the Author
This post was written by Birgit Wirth. Customer Projects and Product Director, DB Arriva and Head of In/Out-Systems and Projects, Deutsche Bahn