The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s (DCMS) 5G Testbeds and Trials programme is part of the government’s £740 million National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) activities, to support the next generation of digital infrastructure, including 5G and full fibre broadband.
In November 2017, DCMS announced funding to create the 5G rail testbed at the Rail Innovation & Development Centre (RIDC) at Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. This capability enhancement at RIDC Melton is currently being installed and once open in May 2019, will support trials and Alpha phase testing, as well as the preparation of technologies for early mainline rail Beta testing and infrastructure deployment.
5G opportunities in rail
Passenger numbers have doubled in the last 20 years – much more than the current infrastructure was ever designed for. Railway infrastructure includes around 20,000 miles of track, 2,500+ stations, 6,000 level crossings, 30,000 bridges and viaducts and more.
Passenger numbers are set to double again in the next 25 years. We can’t rely on more track to cater for this growth – engineering innovation and technology is the key to unlocking the railway, and in-turn GB productivity, for the 21st century.
Important future rail capabilities, and their connectivity needs
Remote condition monitoring using hundreds of thousands of sensors will underpin a data enabled railway. Predictive, prognostic and autonomous systems will need to maintain safety and security levels wilst significantly increasing infrastructure availability at a reduced cost.
From in-cab signalling and driver voice communications, to trackside worker warning and enhancing level crossing safety. The common theme will be increasing rail infrastructure capacity through the delivery of exceptionally high levels of communications service integrity and network security in an affordable way.
Directly supporting Department for Transport’s WiFi on trains policy work stream; delivering the Internet connectivity needs of both passengers and Train Operating Company (TOC) staff and systems. Affordably providing a high bandwidth and reliable connection for over a thousand passengers and staff on a train challenges today’s providers.
Both connected robotic devices – delivering rail infrastructure intervention, and connected drones – offering both survey and delivery capabilities along the trackside. Technology solutions enabling autonomous activities to safely access the infrastructure with little or no impact to an increasingly congested railway timetable.
Rail Innovation & Development Centre, Melton
RIDC Melton provides a safe environment for testing new and modified rolling stock, plant, on-track machines, infrastructure, equipment and technology.