Blog 18 May 2022

Could intelligent automation be the shining light at the end of the tunnel for the rail industry?

by Richard Billington

Richard Billington at the Rail Industry Association Innovation Conference 2022

Last month, I was fortunate to attend the RIA Innovation Conference in Nottingham. Rail innovators, clients and stakeholders were brought together to solve some of the industry’s most pressing challenges.

I was delighted to be invited to participate in the Network Rail Innovation Showcase at the conference. And, of course, when asked to talk about innovation, we have plenty to say! The aim of our presentation was to show how technology is being used to leverage innovation within the rail industry to support their four main priorities:

  • Innovation and data
  • Safety
  • Sustainability
  • Customer experience

The take away from the event was clear – there is huge potential for intelligent automation to support innovation in both train operating companies (TOCs) and Network Rail (infrastructure.) Especially in an industry where safety is paramount.

Two of our customers – Network Rail and East Midlands Railways are doing just that – using technology to innovate, and deliver pragmatic automation, at speed and scale. Here are their stories:

Powering a Digital Factory

Fed up with lengthy transformation development cycles, Network Rail started out with powering what they call a ‘Digital Factory’ to solve the issues with traditional software development. They quickly recognised that they could use low-code technology to equip business teams to build applications quickly and easily and fix big and small business problems. Once the application is live, they then socialise the success to surface new ideas and triage and identify the next apps to be built. Those ideas are then fed back into the digital factory. And then it’s repeat, repeat, repeat to deliver apps at a regular cadence across the organisation.

Safety, efficiency and speed

Inefficiencies in processes were causing Network Rail lost income, delays and slowing progress down. So they used the Digital Factory approach to quickly and easily build apps such as the eRAMS Application using low-code. A seamless end-to-end works approval system which manages work requests, issues permits and ensures the correct approval of completed works. This ensures health and safety compliance, reduces admin and it integrates with other systems across Network Rail that might be involved in the process.

Another app built with low-code was the Land and Consent Application, which gives full visibility of ongoing projects for neighbouring landowners. By establishing a consistent process, not only does it help to safeguard against costly insights, but also helps to build harmonious on-going relationships with neighbouring landowners by consulting with them earlier in the process. There’s considerable cost and risk avoidance and Network Rail has said goodbye to wasted time and errors and hello to increased efficiency and accurate audit trails.

You can read more about Network Rail’s transformation journey with their Digital Factory here.

Enhancing the customer journey

East Midlands Railway strives to put customers’ needs first. Their EMR contact centre operates a 24-hour service to handle a range of customer interactions, from enquiries and purchases through to complaints and passenger assistance calls.

Their contact centre system was outdated and close to the end of its licence. So they’ve used the combination of Liberty Converse, an omnichannel contact centre and Liberty Connect, conversational messaging solution to allow EMR agents to seamlessly deal with web chat and voice calls.

Netcall really pulled out all the stops to help us meet our deadlines. The whole project team were completely committed and we have built a great supplier relationship. It was a real achievement to deploy everything in 5 weeks.

Nara Burne, Business Change Manager – CX

You can read more the East Midlands Railway story here.

Find out more about intelligent automation for the rail industry, talk to us or listen to Anand Patel, Head of Technology and Innovation at Network Rail on how they’re delivering automation to the rail industry.

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