Innovation on rails: why smart trains for smart cities make sense

Wed, 2016-03-09 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

Council Associate Partner Siemens knows it's not bringing something entirely new to the Gulf region -- which already has transit systems and freight-dedicated rail lines. But the company believes a high-end, high-speed intercity train network would enhance the region's overall mobility, the needs of growing populations -- and its economic strength.

The company is displaying is full range of rail innovations and related technology at the Middle East Rail 2016 conference in Dubai this week, as well as its concept for the Hesan Alkhaleej, the "Horse of the Gulf.

"The Hesan Alkhaleej is a premium intercity train, our vision of a real alternative to riad and air travel in the Gulf region. Mobility between cities is a key driver of economic stimulus, and while there are already a number of modern city transit systems in the region, we see the need arising for fast, safe luxurious and efficient intercity services to link these together," explained Joerg Scheifler, Senior Executive VP for Mobility at Siemens Middle East.

As Siemens sees it, the region would benefit from a digitalized rail network featuring trains equipped with sand filtering technologies and the ability to operate reliably in temperatures that can exceed 130°F. The intercity trains also would be able to run on rail tracks intended for heavy freight trains.

"Rail networks on the Arabian Peninsula are chiefly built around freight operations, but we also recognize the needs of growing populations and an increasingly diverse economic landscape. It is key to the efficient use of investment and infrastructure that passenger and freight services can be combined in a mixed-use solution, integrated with what's already in place and achieve the speed, luxury and convenience levels required to compete with air and road travel," Scheifler said.

Why rail matters to smart cities
He also commented that applying digitalization technologies to developed rail networks would transform them into valuable assets for smart cities. "This is an important part of developing rail infrastructure into a valuable asset as part of a truly smart city, by lowering operational costs, boosting quality of life and reducing environmental impact."

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Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.