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Network Rail seeks private sector investment in telecom

Network Rail is looking for private sector companies to invest up to £ 1 billion in upgrading its down-line communications network in exchange for using spare capacity for commercial services.

More than 16,000 km of data cables – containing information essential for the use of the track, such as signals for trains, track sensors, CCTV and internet for trains, railway depots and offices – will be upgraded to also improve safety and performance to allow passengers get better connectivity.

This scheme is intended to raise money for the work. Network Rail, owner of Britain’s rail lines and buildings, said the plan “aims to obtain the funding needed to innovatively upgrade the telecom infrastructure along the rail network without relying on government subsidies.

or passengers. ” Moreover, such a scheme would “support the government’s goals of improving connectivity throughout Britain, including in rural areas”.

As Network Rail does not require the full capacity of new advanced fiber, there will be enough surplus for a third party to run its own telecom services.

The private operator could take advantage of the geographic reach of the national rail network to meet the demand for improved fiber connectivity across Britain, as well as the lower cost of fiber optic roll-out along the track compared to other options.

For rail, the telecom upgrade ensures that different parts of the infrastructure – such as trains, signals and level crossings – are more connected than before, ultimately reducing delays and disruptions.

For example, new fiber optic sensors can detect landslides near the track and better monitor the track for fallen trees. The ability to monitor the condition of assets more effectively means that errors can be identified and located in real time.

This reduces the number of manual inspections that frontline workers have to perform, which also increases safety.

With the roll-out of new fiber optic cable along all major rail lines, Network Rail would also play a role in enabling improved connectivity for rail passengers, who increasingly want to stream videos and browse online with their mobile phones.

While this deal wouldn’t deliver all of these benefits on its own, laying the fiber would be an important foundation. For people and businesses in rural areas, the services managed by the investor can also help support the government’s commitment to roll out gigabit-compatible connections across the UK, allocating £ 5 billion to support implementation in hard-to-reach areas.

An additional benefit of replacing existing copper cable with fiber is to reduce the risk of cable theft, which can lead to disruption and costs that are disproportionate to the criminals’ potential profit.

Andrew Haines, CEO of Network Rail, said: “Our telecom infrastructure requires an upgrade if we are to meet the growing connectivity needs of passengers and the railroad itself – especially to ensure that our fiber optic capacity can handle more data, at higher speed, more. reliable.

“This proposal makes business sense for all parties. We will have an advanced, future-proof telecom infrastructure; the investor gets a great business opportunity;

rail passengers in Great Britain get better service for years and the taxpayer saves a considerable amount. Network Rail aims to complete the transaction with a preferred bidder by the end of 2021.