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Economy Economy

Use digital technology to improve our railways

Last updated: 06:27pm 4 October 2019

We are leading the world in preparing for autonomous vehicles and will press ahead with our plans to use digital technology to improve our railways, so that our roads and tracks can carry more people, faster, more safely and more efficiently.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.81

Our verdict

Although the government is not responsible for running the trains themselves, it is responsible for the infrastructure of the railway network, including, amongst other things, the tracks, signals, level crossings and stations. It fulfils these duties through the government-owned company Network Rail. This pledge to use digital technology to improve the railways does not include specifics about what will be delivered, or by when. For this reason, we are only looking for evidence that plans have been progressed at some point during the current term of office.

Published in April 2018, the Digital Railway Strategy is a plan to replace conventional lineside signals with “modern signalling and train control technology”. To deliver this, two-thirds of the existing signal system “will need replacing in the next 15 years”. The strategy outlines three main time periods for delivery of the programme, with a planned end point around 2027. Various methods have been on a trial system since 2017 and the best will be used across the network, with next phase due to commence at the end of 2019.

The government has certainly moved forward with plans to use digital technology to improve railway efficiency, as seen with the release of the Digital Railway Strategy. This policy is therefore marked as ‘done’.

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