McLaren Applied Technologies

How McLaren is using F1 tech to help deliver the Digital Railway

Andy Pascoe, Business Development Director - (LinkedIn Pulse)
McLaren Applied Technologies 

The concept of McLaren working on trains might seem strange, but it makes perfect sense to us. 

Why? Well, we have decades of experience in capturing data from high-speed vehicles and using that rich data to make better strategic decisions to improve performance. I’m of course referring to Formula 1 – the world’s most technologically advanced sport. And it’s this F1 technology that we’re using to innovate and improve public transport.

We’re making great strides to ensure Britain has a world-class railway system for the future. Recently, we were asked to contribute our expertise towards the Digital Railway project – a proposal for the UK to adopt modern digital signalling and train control and create credible options to upgrade the railway to next generation technology as it becomes available.

McLaren Applied Technologies were one of several companies that were invited to take part in phase two of the Digital Railway’s Early Contractor Involvement Programme (ECI2). The first phase looked at how the rail network could work better with its traditional suppliers, while the second phase was all about bringing in new approaches from other sectors. 

There were nine key challenges which we were asked to explore to and make recommendations for. They included things like reducing the amount of time rail lines were kept out of action during maintenance, through to modernising the communications system and using digital data to improve the customer experience.

A number of common themes emerged from the nine workstreams. There are issues around culture and leadership, data, communications and commercial strategies running through them all. One of the key findings was the need for the industry to acquire and build a common data set to allow rail operators to make decisions more confidently and accurately. Which is where we come in.

Running the rail network smoothly is a lot like managing an F1 team through a Grand Prix. During a race you can have a plan, but things go off plan very quickly, and it’s the same in rail. Just like rail engineers, we work in a safety critical environment with harsh connectivity issues, in far-away places, and we’re trying to get back to the plan from the minute that we start.

McLaren Applied Technologies’ aim is to bring that data and connectivity expertise into areas like public transport and the invitation to contribute to the ECI2 programme was a recognition of our skills.

Working alongside partners, we’re making great progress with improving our railway. For example, we already provide next generation quality wireless internet for a national franchise. We’re helping operators build an intelligent fleet that can provide journey data to operators and passengers through apps and IoT devices. And we’re managing disruption - helping rail operators allocate their resources effectively and efficiently to minimise delays and reduce costs.

The Digital Railway project fits perfectly into our mission for public transport - to increase transport system reliability, resilience, and sustainability by harnessing decades of experience in real time data capture, simulation, and decision science in motorsport.

We believe in working collaboratively and together, we will transform the passenger experience; reduce disruption, release network capacity and enhance services to help deliver dynamically personalised door to door travel.

The journey has already begun.

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