Digitalisation: An Industry 4.0 leading the way in cutting-edge technology solutions


The emergence of disruptive technologies has a very direct and positive impact on the efficiency of railway transport. The use of these solutions allows to optimise the networks of both, passengers and goods, and to stride forward in achieving a green economy and a fully sustainable mobility.

The rapid and simultaneous advancement of new developments, increasingly accessible, opens up great opportunities for the implementation of innovative applications to improve the efficiency of travel, as well as in the dynamics and operations of companies in the sector. This is a constant evolution that occurs at an unprecedented rate and that opens the way to a new era where great breakthroughs can be added.

In this progress 4.0, the Spanish railway industry is at the forefront of the implementation of great advances in all fields, from the design of project and rolling stock to connectivity options, real-time information, safety, capacity control, self-driving, predictive maintenance management or after-sales care.
Highly technological industry
The Spanish railway companies stand out for being an industrial segment highly developed in the technological aspect, with agile and very cutting-edge models and processes of organization and production.

This industry 4.0. works with intelligent systems that simplify processes and bureaucracy, with structured and useful information and that reduce time on administrative tasks in favour of others of higher quality and accuracy. This way, it gains in competitiveness, organisational performance and personalized attention to each client.

The use of technology allows the digitalisation of some functions in facilities and workshops, decision-making, and the best allocation of functions.

Passenger services

The integration of the railway into the Smart Cities highlights aspects of particular importance to facilitate intermodality. In this field, the Spanish business fabric has implemented state-of-the-art technological solutions in markets around the world to achieve intelligent stations and detailed information to the traveller in real time.

These developments are in high demand at times like the current one so that users know the level of occupation of the railway cars, and that the frequency of trains or possible connections with shared vehicles can be distributed in advance.

The interconnection of all the elements allows a personalized attention to each traveler, through a virtual assistant, and to rely on equipment adapted to the service provided (wired or wireless networks, WIFI, 5G), which can also be used by the station staff or the businesses established in the facility.

Smart and safe operation

Safety, one of the values inherent in railway transport due to its extremely low accident rates, is also greatly reinforced by technological advances. Spain stands out for being the country in Europe with the largest number of kilometres of track with the ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) communication system.

Another field where Spanish solutions are pioneers is the automated operation of trains, with the well-known ATO (Automatic Train Operation) technology, both on metro lines and also more recently, on more complex commuter lines.

Spanish companies also stand out for the blockchain solutions for the management of railway transport safety operations and the compliance with the strict European protocols. In addition, passenger protection is greatly reinforced by the implementation of systems that allow real-time control of the capacity of the stations, in order to ensure that the currently necessary safety distances are met. These video surveillance solutions rely on devices for the analysis of images and are based on artificial intelligence.

The contributions of Spanish companies also have an impact on the development of “cloud infrastructures” or in the cloud, which store, process and analyse a huge amount of data in order to improve operations, and the customisation of services.

Predictive train maintenance

The Spanish industry has developed powerful analytical tools from machine learning in recent years, which allow to monitor the operation of the mechanical and electrical systems of the train and avoid incidents. These asset monitoring solutions enable the attention to critical elements of rolling stock and ensure reliability. These companies have achieved major milestones in the field of maintenance, including, for example, the launch of the world’s most advanced automated train repair shop, with equipment that has intelligent data systems.

Projects with innovative designs

Digital transformation begins in the design and engineering phase. The application of BIM or 3D technologies allows to work with a high degree of detail in any railway infrastructure project and centralise the information to optimise the process and supervision of the work.
New work approaches give these professionals greater versatility and open the door to new functionalities. Technological advances are also very relevant in the concept and design phase of rolling stock, as it contributes to the manufacture of lighter, sturdier and of longer life-cycle units.

R+D: The importance of joining efforts

The European Union wants to strengthen the overall leadership of the railway industry through research. To do this, it has a battery of technological and economic resources in place to advance in R&D and in a safe and sustainable mobility. An example of this is the Shift2rail programme, with a large participation of Spanish companies, which focuses on three key objectives: to improve the capacity of the railway network, to increase the quality and reliability of the services, which will result in greater safety for the passenger and to reduce the costs of the system life cycle.