Why the Future of Rail Operations Is Digital

Authors Henning Schierholz , Michael Rüßmann , Peter Ullrich , and Rich Davey

The rail industry has historically adapted slowly to new technologies. Its approach to digital technologies has been no exception. Even as auto and truck manufacturers have raced to make the leap to autonomous vehicles, for example, rail operators have done relatively little to deploy driverless trains.

We believe that rail operators will need to accelerate the pace of change. Companies that manage rail service and infrastructure have little choice if they wish to hold their competitive ground, much less expand it. By embracing a digital transformation, operators can slash costs, improve service quality and reliability, and make maximum use of their physical assets. By failing to adapt, operators could put many rail systems at a severe—perhaps even fatal—competitive disadvantage to road-bound cargo and passenger services.