Intelligent CIO Africa Issue 21 - Page 81

INDUSTRY WATCH SOUTH AFRICAN RAIL OPERATORS WILL NEED TO INVEST IN A SOLUTION THAT CAN PROVIDE THEM WITH A HIGH-PERFORMANCE SERVICE PLATFORM. S outh Africa’s current rail network is the 11th largest in the world, comprising of 12,801km of national network, 7,278km of branch lines and 2,228km of narrow gauge urban network, as well as 80km of standard gauge regional rapid transit network. Urban rail continues to play a significant role in transporting residents in South Africa’s metropolitan areas. With the scale and passenger volume set to continue growing, these lines will need to be integrated into multiple-line networks, requiring more efficient smart operations. Legacy systems a constraint to growth This is because legacy rail operations are often hampered by data centres that in today’s standards are inefficient, complex and costly to maintain and adapt to current demands. A reliance on mass transit WiFi or analogue systems that are susceptible to interference results in unreliable critical communications services further hindering reliable and agile operations. In addition, these lines are often operated independently as technology islands and lack consistent service architecture, technical platforms and data, with a myriad of IT systems that cannot support the unified operation of multiple lines. This becomes a problem, as switching to automatic train operation – one way of improving efficiency – requires more reliable information systems and service linkages between different data silos. South Africa’s National Development Plan identified that the country needs reliable economical and smooth-flowing corridors linking its various modes of transport, including road, rail and air. It adds that these corridors are primarily dominated by old railway technology that is prone to malfunction and poor intermodal linkages. Railway organisations globally are increasingly turning to ICT paving the path to Digital Transformation to maximise their investment providing a more convenient transport service for commuters and improving operations efficiency and management of their assets and rail networks – showing that similar improvements can be gained here too. The government has recognised the critical role that rail plays in socio- economic development, with commuter rail services making work centres and central business districts accessible to the country’s workforce by providing affordable transport at set times. As such, the country is to invest R173 billion toward the modernisation of South Africa’s railway systems, including the fleet and depots among others. One of the improvements already underway includes the implementation of a GSM-R based critical communications network to improve signalling on the urban rail network. INTELLIGENTCIO 81