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May 15, 2015

Could Big Data boost UK railway safety?

The potential of Big Data to improve rail safety is being investigated.


Big Data could play a significant role in improving the safety of rail transport in the UK.

The Rail Safety and Standards Board and the Institute of Railway Research are working together to explore the potential of ‘Big Data Risk Analysis’ by combining computing power and large amounts of raw data to improve rail safety.

Dr van Gulijk, IRR, said: "Instead of constructing a pre-determined structure for risk calculations, such as fault trees, different sources of safety-relevant information are brought together to find answers to specific safety questions, to identify new trends and to identify new threats to safety."

The BDRA has already been used to develop software which calculates the frequency at which trains approach red signs. The model uses live signal feeds from Network Rail along with other inputs to asses risk and to reduce the dangers associated with Signals Passed at Danger.

Work has been ongoing between the IRR and RSSB to investigate how Big Data could be implemented to improve safety, however, at the BDRA Symposium held at the University of Huddersfield, van Gulijk was keen to raise more awareness.

"We needed this symposium so that people could think about what BDRA could actually deliver, how it would benefit the railway industry and to see what the technical and scientific challenges are."

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