Fingerprint scanning and autonomous trains part of ambitious proposals for UK rail improvements


Modern technology such as fingerprint and iris scans and digital signalling could improve rail travel in the future.

This is the view of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) which represents the UK’s rail firms – and it’s part of a broad set of proposed technological enhancements.

One suggestion is for customers to use iris or fingerprints scans to purchase travel – allowing for faster and ticket-free travel.

Alternatives to this idea also include the use of an app to track customers onto their train and through ticket barriers using Bluetooth, automatically charging them without the need for a ticket. This is a process currently seeking trial by Chiltern Railways.

Ultimately, the RDG says no ticket-barriers or ticket hall may be necessary at all.

The RDG also recommended the use of digital signalling, something the Government committed £450 million pounds towards testing in the last budget.

Digital signalling would allow trains to communicate so that operators can know the exact location and speed of all trains in real time. This could allow trains to travel more closely together and hence increase the frequency of services, while also aiding services’ abilities to recover from disruption.

To further smooth the processes which can slow rail travel, the RDG suggests train carriages could be able to split and join on the move in the future.

Intelligent trains are also touted in ambitious plans, with services gradually being phased from semi-automatic, to driverless and eventually to a fully autonomous system. Such a system would allow trains to communicate automatically and be self-regulating, only under remote supervision.

Other simpler advances suggested include creating more space on trains by building larger or even double-decker services and more efficient luggage storage.

Meanwhile, the RDG also put forward the proposal of optimising the energy efficiency of trains through battery or dual power systems to reduce trains’ carbon footprint.

“This blueprint sets out how we can harness digital technology to make journeys better for passengers and freight customers on a railway that’s simpler and easier to use,” chief executive Paul Plummer told the RDG’s annual conference.

The proposals are illustrated and laid out in detail on RDG’s website. It says a clearer time frame of when new technology can be expected is coming soon.

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