Railways 101

The Power of Data is Saving Fuel for the Rail Industry

The rail industry has long been one of the most fuel-efficient methods of transportation for both freight and passenger service. The ongoing investment in clean and green technology has continued to push the rail industry above others, such as vehicle and air travel, as the least polluting mode of transportation. Nonetheless, with increasing environmental regulation, it remains a priority for railroads to continue finding new and innovative solutions to reduce fuel consumption and therefore, reduce their impact on the environment. Toronto’s commuter train network, Metrolinx, went looking for a solution from an old resource that was available all along – its data.

Rather than installing new fuel-saving equipment, Metrolinx and RailVision Analytics worked together to look into historical equipment data and determine the optimal driving pattern required to save fuel, without prolonging passenger service. The analyzed data indicated that coasting at high speeds was the best way to obtain the most fuel efficient trip. Simple instructions were then created and distributed to all crews so they could replical these optimal conditions. RailVision Analytics then provided a monitoring service to generate daily reports for crews and supervisors to give feedback on the amount of fuel saved and other project parameters. Receiving feedback allowed crews and supervisors to monitor progress and motivate improvement. To date, this initiative has saved over 1.5 million litres of diesel and the savings continue to increase daily.

With no hardware installation, this innovative solution was able to save a significant volume of fuel as a result of today’s extensive computing capabilities and the vast quantity of data generated. Across North America, railroads are digitizing their fleets to get crucial data about the status of their equipment. With powerful computers and new software technology, this data can be turned into important information that not only saves fuel but can be used to improve maintenance and the safety of railroads.

Especially during a time where many office staff are working at home, the importance of how we access and visualize our data is become increasingly important. As the railroad continues to digitize its equipment, data analytics will become an integral part in increasing the efficiency of rail operations. As it is commonly said, “you can’t improve something you can’t measure”, and thus unlocking the potential of fleet data will pave the way to saving more fuel, reducing emissions, and ultimately keeping our trains on the tracks.