INNOVATION IS THE STAR SYMBOL OF THE SPANISH RAILWAY INDUSTRY. THE NUMEROUS DEVELOPMENTS ACHIEVED IN RECENT YEARS IN ALL SEGMENTS OF ITS ACTIVITY HAVE ENABLED THESE COMPANIES TO PROVIDE THE MOST AVANT-GARDE SOLUTIONS TO ACHIEVE A SAFE, SUSTAINABLE, EFFICIENT, AND DIGITALISED TRANSPORT.
The technological contribution of the Spanish railway industry has had a very positive impact on the promotion of avant-garde, efficient and sustainable transport networks. The importance that their companies give to R+D is evident in the numerous developments they have introduced in the market. These solutions are already applied in all segments of each project, from the design and building phase to the operation, maintenance and state-of-the-art rolling stock. In addition, they also feature prominently in innovation projects with which Europe wants to design the train of the future.
Europe seeks to accelerate progress to meet transport challenges. Among its proposals is the R+D Europe´s Rail programme, where the Spanish know-how is very remarkable. Eleven Spanish businesses and entities are associate members and collaborators of this platform responsible for defining the new single railway space of the European Union. In addition, a large representation of this country heads the projects of the different working groups (universities, foundations, technology centres and several companies from different subsectors) contribute their knowledge to achieve the objectives.
The scope of action of Spanish businesses in these research programmes focuses on aspects that are particularly key to the future of the railway. Among them, tracks, energy efficiency, cybersecurity, IT solutions, unified electrification systems, signalling, positioning, predictive maintenance or development of the different technical specifications.
A firm commitment to research, innovation, and digitalisation
The Spanish railway industry has carried out an impressive work in these years, with a clear commitment to research and innovation, as well as technological development, with the creation of its own technology within the framework of digitalisation, sustainable mobility and energy efficiency. This contribution has had a very positive impact on the promotion of avant-garde, efficient and sustainable transport networks. A technological development that, in addition, is applied in all segments of each project, from the design phase to commissioning, including of course, rolling stock and maintenance.
With a cutting-edge technology that offers significant and constant developments in environmental management, interoperability, system automation, accessibility, user comfort and safety. For example, there are the developments in the field of state-of-the-art ERTMS signalling systems, or the propulsion tests with renewable energies that replace Diesel as fuel in the vehicle fleet, with hydrogen and lithium batteries.
SPAIN BENCHMARK IN EUROPE IN TECHNOLOGICAL APPLICATIONS
Europe wants to be the benchmark for railway innovation for the coming years, and for this it has knocked on the door of the Spanish industry to access its knowledge and experience in this matter, and thus be present in technological programmes of great importance such as the European R+D initiative Shift2Rail and its successor, Europe’s Rail. Both initiatives have a wide representation of Spanish companies, either as founding members, collaborators or subcontractors working on the railway of the future and improving the quality of infrastructures and services.
The technological solutions that the industry provides are present from control and signalling systems, to communications or passenger information. A cutting-edge technology with which the Spanish railway industry faces the need to insert the railway within a sustainable mobility. In short, own technologies that aim to promote energy efficiency and environmentally friendly transport that will help achieve the goals aspired to by the European Green Deal and the UN SDGs.
This know-how makes them a first-rate partner in supporting transport administrations around the world in the development of new infrastructures, public transport plans, network modernisation and implementation of the most cutting-edge technological developments. An experience that is also reflected in the figures of the sector: during the last year, the total turnover reached 17 billion euros and created more than 30,000 jobs and 8 per cent of the GDP.
DIGITALISATION AND AUTOMATION
Digital transformation has reached all sectors. The Spanish railway industry, aware of this situation and the many advantages of implementing new technologies in the railway transport, is working to introduce the most avant-garde developments. Digitalisation brings with it an improvement in services by operators. The technology that allows the operation of driverless trains developed by Spanish companies, for example, makes the country have the longest automated line in Europe. In addition, they are at the top of the list in the constant search for new developments that optimise railway transport systems.
One of the most outstanding achievements in this regard is the use of technology that allows the operation of driverless trains, which enables the country to have the longest automated line in Europe. Another great challenge where the Spanish experience is being key is in the implementation and development of the CBTC in metro lines, compatible with the European ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) signalling standard.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRACK
The participation in megaprojects has enabled Spanish businesses to overcome great challenges and achieve constant technological achievements. It has been possible, for example, to minimise the effects caused by extreme weather on the network in arid areas, develop online technology for the management of linear works, digitalise infrastructures through BIM. With regards to the track, there are also numerous contributions such as the lateral wind prediction and detection system or the sleeper prototype that minimises the ballast flight.
The use of renewable energy in the railway sector is booming. The Spanish industry already has prototypes for the so-called “hydrogen train”, which will be ready in 2023. This “green, innovative and efficient” technology will replace diesel locomotives and contribute to improving sustainable mobility.
In addition, the European Commission has selected a project led by Spanish businesses that will enable the development of a railway prototype also powered by hydrogen. This initiative has significant funding from European funds through the H2020 programme. The goal is to obtain clean electrical energy from this chemical element and make trains 100% emission-free.
MAJOR INNOVATIONS IN ROLLING STOCK
Spain has large rolling stock manufacturers and factories from where the most advanced trains in the world are designed and exported for all types of networks.
Those companies are behind the most innovative changes that have been introduced in recent years. Among them, concepts such as the tram-train, which efficiently combines railway with tram and thus becomes the ideal means to connect different municipalities. This solution is already being exported to many countries. Other outstanding developments are the new high-speed platforms or systems for the circulation of catenary-free trams. Along with these new rolling stock concepts, the Spanish industry has made numerous proposals to achieve a more efficient and less polluting transport.