Enabling Railway 4.0

Enrique Bolivar
February 25, 2020

Enable Railway 4.0 with next-generation Communications and Network solutions

Railway 4.0, also known as Digital Railway, is a major trend which is marked by the digitalization of the railway industry leading toward the automation of railway operations. This digital transformation that is underway, through the adoption of new technologies, is vital to enabling new passenger experiences, improving security, and optimizing operations. Additionally, new technologies that reduce negative environmental impact and enable economic growth and social sustainability are now available.

According to recent tweet by Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of Network Rail, “…two-thirds of our network’s signaling system will need replacing in the next 15 years.”

Technology is at the heart of digital transformation. The railway industry is embracing disruptive technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data analytics, connectivity, and cybersecurity to innovate and enable the fundamental changes required to support the mandatory evolution.

Man walking on train platform for blog post

New regulations, technologies, and business models are driving the most important outcomes in the railway industry which include:

  • A hassle-free journey
  • Service availability
  • Reduced operational costs
  • Increased capacity
  • Affordability
  • Efficient transport system
  • Multimodal transport or Mobility as a Service (MaaS)


Digitalization is focused on specific areas of the rail sector such as mobile applications to improve the passenger experience and staff operations, including e-ticketing, train control, signaling, traffic management, and assisted and predictive maintenance.

As previously mentioned, for railway operators, there are three main evolution axes where significant changes through digitalization are expected: passenger experience, operations and security.

The passenger experience is driven by user-centric services offering digital transport services using mobile applications that allow passengers to stay connected and ease their journey. Optimizing operations is a major priority for transport operators. The adoption of new business models, as well as connecting business processes and objects (IoT) to collect information from sensors, will definitely improve train and railway maintenance and help in anticipating potential failures. According to Gerhard Kress, “Reliable knowledge of which parts are likely to fail in the near future will allow for close to 100% availability” . With that in mind, connectivity is the essential component for the passenger experience, operations, and security. Connectivity is also fundamental in making digital transformation possible.

The Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise smart rail vision

The ALE vision is to make transportation subsystems smart to enable better services to move people and goods. For ALE, smart means the capability to connect all subsystems. To make that happen, ALE provides the right solutions based on a comprehensive mission-critical Network and Communications portfolio to enable the Railway 4.0 transition.  

Innovative solutions based on Alcatel-Lucent Rainbow™ Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) provide for the integration of business processes, end user applications and interconnection of objects to provide communication services such as alerts, text messages, voice and video communications and file sharing. Alcatel-Lucent OmniAccess® Stellar WLAN provides Location-based Services (LBS), secure network infrastructure, ruggedized equipment that can withstand environmental hazards, high-performance network solutions to support IoT adoption, and specific communication solutions to manage emergency incidents, all of which are part of the comprehensive ALE portfolio.

In the railway environment there are five key areas we need to consider: station or platform, on-board, track side, Operations Control Center (OCC) and tunnels. Each area has its own challenges and requirements in terms of evolution.

The station or platform is the first point of physical contact between the transport operator and the passenger. Multiple applications and subsystems are running at the train station such as the security system, signalling system, information display, end user applications, operational staff applications, ticketing, billing system among others. A secure and reliable network infrastructure is fundamental for efficient operations. On top of that, additional services can be provided to the passenger. The combination of the solutions made available by Rainbow CPaaS and LBS enables accurate and personalized end user services including:

  • Indoor location wayfinding, geofencing and people tracking: The passenger can receive personalized and contextual information in real-time through automated services via chatbots using LBS and CPaaS integration.
  • Ticketing support: Autonomous travel experience through real-time support on ticketing kiosks or virtual counter assistance during the ticketing process.
  • Emergency notifications: Two-way notification services—passengers alert the security team or the security team alerts passengers.


On-board services provide an extension of the station services that let passengers stay connected even when they are on the train. The Wi-Fi network, LBS and CPaaS integration provides access to infotainment services, interaction with train staff, passenger community, and other train services such as restaurant access.

Track side is one of the areas most exposed to risks and hazards. It is subject to different environmental conditions as well as malicious attacks as it is outdoors and often extends across vast areas. A secure, reliable and ruggedized network infrastructure is vital to support mission-critical operations that enable communication services between the staff in the field and the OCC. Around the clock monitoring and operation is essential for track side activities.

The OCC is the brain of railway operations. Collaboration is the cornerstone of enabling coordination between different stakeholders to ensure smooth operations that keep trains running and on schedule. Following are examples of how CPaaS integration can help:

  • CPaaS integration into business processes and interconnection with different sensors allow the seamless collaboration between all stakeholders. This includes the train operator manager, cleaner, maintenance, caterer, on-board crew and operational staff to achieve the common goal of “on-time train departure.” The stakeholders can be informed of task progress and share real-time information to resolve issues.
  • For assisted maintenance, Rainbow CPaaS can be integrated with smart glasses to enable remote technical assistance between experts at the operations center and field engineers using multimedia communications to reduce downtime.


Tunnel operations are another critical area as they involve working in potentially dangerous zones. Close collaboration between the OCC and maintenance staff in the field is vital to ensure efficient maintenance operations, keep tunnel workers safe and secure, and address issues and emergency incidents quickly. The tunnel environment is similar to track side due to the environmental hazards, making the requirements and solutions similar. Following are some specific solutions that address unique tunnel challenges:

  • Rainbow CPaaS and LBS provide tracking for lone worker protection. Track maintenance staff can be informed when maintenance personnel go into the tunnel and remote maintenance can be coordinated between the OCC and the staff in the tunnel through real-time task progress control via IM, voice and video.
  • Ruggedized data network infrastructure provides IP network connectivity for emergency and maintenance operation activities.


The future of rail is being driven by many different challenges. Technology concepts such as digital transformation, AI, IoT adoption, MaaS, big data analytics and others are bringing rail into the 21st century with Railway 4.0. Operators need to embrace digitalization to become more efficient, support future challenges and increase safety.

Learn more about how Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise railway solutions can enable your smart railway for today and tomorrow. 

Enrique Bolivar

Enrique Bolivar

Solution Marketing, Transportation, ALE

Enrique, as Transportation solution marketing, is responsible for the creation of solutions, value propositions and content to address the different transportation sectors such as Railway, ATI, ITS and Ports and Logistics, supporting the global ALE sales team. He has over 15 years of experience in the telecommunication industry working on the enterprise market. Enrique was part of the International Central Presales team providing support to sales and presales teams worldwide with a strong knowledge on end-to-end solutions, network VoIP design, UCC and UCaaS solutions.

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