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New IBM Study Highlights Exploding Demand for Smarter, Faster Rail Systems

Apr 16, 2009

According to a study released today by IBM , increasing demand on rail systems in the U.S. and around the world will dramatically strain existing rail infrastructure. The study, "The Smarter Railroad," analyzes new approaches to modernize and build high-speed rail networks globally, such as those announced today by President Obama.

Findings from the report indicate that the top key challenges in the development of better rail systems, cited by the world's leading global rail executives, were capacity and congestion; operational efficiency and reliability; structural and competitive issues; and safety and security. The report also highlights emerging technologies that will help rail companies better instrument, analyze and manage rail networks and equipment in real-time. The full report, "The Smarter Railroad," can be found here.

"The global rail industry in 2009 and beyond will struggle to meet the increasing demand for freight and passenger transportation, while aging systems and infrastructure complicate the problem," says Keith Dierkx, Director, IBM Global Rail Programs. "However, rail companies around the world are starting to apply new technologies that will help them build high-speed rail systems that more efficiently move people, are more cost effective, and make more intelligent use of all rail assets, from tracks to trains. IBM is already working with railroads to build these smarter systems around the world."

Data indicates that US$300 billion will be spent globally to upgrade, expand and initiate railway networks during the next five years (1). These investments are designed to build a new rail infrastructure that can meet dramatically increasing rail capacity demand over the next two decades. Even meeting current demand requires that nearly 40 cents on every revenue dollar is spent maintaining the rail system. More perspective on smarter rail systems and this report can be found today on the Smarter Planet blog.

IBM developed this report to help governments and railroad companies better understand and address the challenges facing both passenger and freight rail systems. Building these modern railroad systems requires information to be shared across the rail network and among many different stakeholders, including the rail company, shippers, car owners, travel agents, municipalities, intermodal carriers and customers.

IBM is building intelligent transportation systems around the world to help cities manage traffic congestion, improve urban environmental conditions and increase economic competitiveness. These systems leverage business consulting, advanced transportation analytics, Research, supercomputing and new sensor networks. These projects include smart transportation initiatives in China, The Netherlands, Stockholm, Brisbane, Singapore, Dublin, London and other locations around the world.

IBM's smart rail projects involve software and services designed to collect and analyze data gathered from devices on trains, tracks, stations and other assets to improve the speed, safety, and reliability of rail service. For example, Netherlands Railways, one of the busiest national railway networks in Europe, is using IBM software to manage more than 5,000 trains in the Netherlands through a network of 390 stations and 2,800 kilometers of track.

The smart transportation system improves the on-time performance for more than one million passengers each day by more accurately matching the number of trains in service to expected user traffic. Netherlands Railways has been able to improve its operating efficiency by as much as six percent, netting the railway a cost savings of over euro 20 million annually.

To view IBM's Institute for Business Value Paper, "The Smarter Railroad," go to:

To view a video on IBM's smarter transportation initiatives, go to:

For more discussions on the topic of smarter rail systems can be found on the Smarter Planet blog at:


(1) "GEM's Equity Strategy. Railways: Global Spending Boom to Upgrade, Expand and Initiate Rail Networks." Morgan Stanley. February 7, 2008.

  Matt Berry
  IBM Media Relations
  Office: 914-766-1715
  Mobile: 201-370-9133

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CONTACT: Matt Berry, IBM Media Relations, Office: +1-914-766-1715, or
Mobile: +1-201-370-9133,

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