Report predicts robot future for rail network over coming decades

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Robots repairing rail infrastructure and ticketless technology could be among the features of train travel by theí middle of the century, according to a report.

Train windows that adjust automatically to prevent glare are also among the futuristic concepts envisaged by engineering and design consultancy Arup in its Future Of Rail 2050 report.

The report explores the possibility of intelligent robots building new, and retrofitting old, rail infrastructure. Swarm robotics, a theory based on swarm behaviour among ant and bee colonies, could see small robots collaborating on major railway repairs and structural testing.

Monitoring drones would enable rail operators to perform advanced maintenance on tracks, eradicating lengthy journey delays and line closures.

Driverless trains would also be in constant communication with one another with the sensors embedded in rail infrastructure, travelling in close succession and responding in real time to their location on a given track.

In addition, ticketless technology will remove gate-lines in stations. Authorisation to travel will be universal and payment processed automatically when the journey is taken, allowing a seamless connection between various modes of transport.

The report imagines a future where train windows 
adjust automatically to prevent glare.

Arup’s global rail leader Colin Stewart said: “The global urban population is growing rapidly and... this places huge pressure on transport infrastructure and resources, but also creates a significant opportunity for rail.