Key Takeaways from the SCL London Group event “Innovation and Tech in Rail Sector”

March 12, 2019

Social, economic and technological trends 

  • Shamit Weinberger-Gaiger from the DfT highlighted the significant changes to market behaviours that are having an impact on travel behaviours. Examples include less people travelling for work due to more people working from home or working on a part-time basis. 
  • Most of the travel pressures are concentrated in major cities putting a strain on the economics of running smaller rural rail routes.
  • The changes in technology has also allowed for an increased number of competitors in the market e.g. Uber, Bla Bla Car and Citymapper. Such competition is only going to increase with concepts such as autonomous vehicles and hyperloop gaining traction.
  • To rise to the challenge, the rail industry needs to improve the skills gap in the industry especially with the increase of operational staff and be able to make better use of data and find a way to share this data.

Legal challenges in sharing data

  • David Berry from Stephenson Harwood talked us through the legal obstacles and opportunities in sharing rail data. He started by stating that a passenger’s expectations are changing with the need for high-speed information and communication as important to a journey as high-speed rail.
  • Companies operating in the rail industry are likely to create and hold a significant amount of data, which, if available to the market, could create opportunities.
  • To share this data – parties need to consider how this data is protected and restricted – these include intellectual property rights, contractual issues and regulatory concerns.
  • Copyright in databases and database rights largely protect the structure and order of the database rather than the underlying data within the database, which is more likely to rely on the law of confidentiality to protect the underlying data.
  • Data licensed-in under contract, together with GDPR, NIS Regulations and competition law will also present obstacles on the rail industry sharing data.
  • A lot of the rail data generated is likely to be considered big data where it will be easier to find value in this data if it is made available to expert third parties.
  • Despite the challenges identified it is more likely that protectionism will be the greatest barrier to rail innovation through data.

How the DfT are encouraging data sharing

  • Natasha Thamali from the DfT highlighted that ,in collaboration with the rail industry, the DfT has developed a Joint Rail Data Action Plan to help ensure that rail travel experience is continuously innovating and improving through the better use of data.
  • The objectives of the JRDAP are to: (1) make more rail data openly available; and (2) improve the quality of rail data.
  • The barriers to this includes: 
  • Data licencing and ownership constraints including knowledge of landscape 
  • Issues with data quality and accuracy
  • Lack of rail data publishing standards

Some key actions Include…. 

  • Creating a rail information governance framework that takes commercial concerns into consideration 
  • Defining commercially sensitive data
  • Cataloguing existing datasets
  • Creating an open data business case 
  • Creating better training programmes to upskill people who work with data and technology 

Read more about the SCL London Group

You may also be interested in the Cyber Security Masterclass being organised by the SCL London and SCL Privacy and DP Groups on Wednesday 10 April 2019, London