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From Steam Trains to Smart Trains

Andrew Hawthorn
13 Jul 2023

Businesses must change, they need to be more digital and they must turn ideas into impact quickly.

Embrace change or fail

The railway industry has been embracing change since the very first steam trains changed the way people and goods move around the country. The steam train had a massive impact on society and today the railway industry is taking on board changes from lots of other industries, such as telecoms and automotive. The pace of change is increasing and with transformation happening on multiple fronts only those businesses that are able to harness the changes to enable their own rapid product evolution will succeed in the future.

Be more digital

The transportation industry is a big fan of the term “digitisation” but what does it mean? Undoubtedly, we all have our own views, but at Capgemini we use the term Intelligent Industry. Intelligent Industry is the new era of Digital Transformation, that includes but goes far beyond Industry 4.0. Disruptive technologies and data enable previously unachievable use cases, from multi-physics simulation, remote operations, and digitalisation of products and processes to autonomous vehicles, connected products, reimagined customer experience, and new as-a-service models.

Whatever your view of digitisation, it should be looked at through different lenses:

  • The organisational lens, which focusses on making our organisations more efficient and supportive of change
  • The industry lens, which looks at digitisation across a specific industry and aims to unite multiple products and solutions typically through standardisation of interfaces and removal of fragmentation / barriers.
  • The customer lens, which considers digitisation from the customer perspective and enhancing engagement / experience for people
  • The environment lens, which directs us to digitise to improve the sustainability of our business and products.

Turn ideas into impact

These are great concepts and great ideas, but they hold no value if they have no impact. We therefore need to create a frictionless and smart journey that takes us from where we are today to where we want to be in 5-10 years with value generated throughout the journey.

In the next section we look at each of the lenses in turn and how, for each, ideas can be turned into impact quickly.

Digitisation for organisations

The term digital twin has to be used in a blog about digitisation at some point, but can you create a twin of an organisation? Not many businesses have considered creating a digital twin of their organisation, but they are incredibly powerful. Think about the value that you would get by modelling the flows of decision making within your organisation and then linking these flows to real-time data that can tell you where there are delays, pinch points or decisions just never being made.

An example of where we digitised part of an organisation is the Supervision NG (Next Generation) we built for SNCF. We have all of SNCF’s supervision centres which manage 15000+ trains journeys managed each day. This resulted in €7.3m of performance savings in 2020 that is expected to grow to €75m per year by 2026. Find out more here:

Digitisation that transforms the industry

The railway industry is doing pretty well at digitising the industry, we have standards like ETCS for train signalling, Eulynx for the integration of trackside systems and OCORA for trainbourne systems. This will lead to better integration of data streams and enable the development of higher-level functionality like signal-controlled warning systems to keep trackside workers safe.

For ProRail, our engineers developed BITS railway infrastructure digital twin, which is a digital twin of the complete railway network in the Netherlands. The system supports the;

  • analysis of changes to the scheme plan (the railway tracks) validating that they are going to result in the expected timetable improvements before a single piece of track is laid;
  • training of signallers with real traffic management systems, but with simulated data behind them allowing the signallers to be tested in any scenario, including failure scenarios; and
  • integration and testing of new products and services in a virtual environment.

Find out more about BITS here.

Customer Focused Digitisation

We need to start looking at the railway industry from the customers perspective. What would a customer prefer – a five-minute shorter journey time or completely reliable Wi-Fi for their full journey?

Customers expect more today and they will expect even more in the years to come. Why can’t customers plan integrated transport journeys? Why aren’t seats dynamically reservable? We need to look at what our customers are going to expect in 10 years’ time and start building systems that support that today.

Capgemini took a customer focused approach when Eurostar asked us to resolve issues at the Gare Du Nord terminal.

Eurostar had to cap its passengers at 2/3 capacity due to poor experience, service and design at the SNFC Eurostar Paris Nord Terminal, so we looked at all aspects of the customer experience and flow through the terminal. By considering the digital, physical and emotional experience and designing them to support one another, we managed to increase the passenger satisfaction score by +7pts and improve punctuality by 25%. Find out more here.

Digitisation that benefits the world around us

We all know that we all need to be more sustainable and as an organisation Capgemini is committed to help our clients save 10 million tons of CO2 by 2030. We have built dedicated sustainability teams but also encourage all our engineers to come up with innovative ideas that are better for our planet.

The railway industry is, of course, one of the least polluting methods of transportation particularly electrified lines and whilst big electrification projects are important there are also lots of small investments that we can make that can save our businesses money at the same time as reducing our impact on the environment.

Capgemini developed a supplier sustainability assessment framework for a banking client and surveyed 20 suppliers. This considered the suppliers approach to sourcing, recycling and re-using and within a matter of weeks identified a number of improvements that will lead to savings in excess of £1m in the first year alone.


In conclusion, only those that can harness relentless change to drive rapid organisational and product evolution will succeed in the future. Digitisation through the application of Intelligent Industry is the solution with frictionless and smart journeys, with benefits being realised throughout to help create a wholistic, realistic and sustainable path for evolution, or revolution.

Andrew Hawthorn

Chief Architect | High Integrity Systems and Intelligent Industry
I have over 20 years of hands-on experience in developing high-integrity systems and now oversee a large team of incredibly talented systems and software engineers developing critical software over multiple domains including air traffic control, defence systems, automotive, energy and rail.