The UK’s plan for a digitalised railway calls for fast and tailored connection solutions

Train main visual CROPPED

Author: John Surgenor, Train Industry Sector Manager at LAPP UK

The British rail network is better used than ever. The fifth most used network in the world is fast approaching its highest level of passenger numbers. Between 2017 and 2018 the UK rail industry transported 1.7 billion passengers, a number that has doubled compared to recent years. It also transported 110 billion tonnes of freight, with more and more routes being approved for freight transport. This growth in the rail sector is driven by infrastructure developments and more high-speed rail services. The increase in demand creates a need to invest in new technology to help deliver the reliable and frequent trains that passengers and companies want.

A railway fit for the twenty-first century

Between 2019 and 2024 the biggest modernisation of our rail network in over a century will take place. The Digital Railway is a project aimed at using digital technologies to improve transport connections, increase capacity and safety, reduce delays and cut down costs. The government has earmarked £450 million specifically for digital railway schemes.  As Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, explains: “we are investing in the biggest modernisation of our railway since Victorian times [..]. Investing in a railway fit for the twenty-first century will help the UK become a world leader in rail technology, boosting exports and skills. This is a chance to show young people how digital innovation is opening doors to careers that will shape the future of travel.”

The government ensures that all new trains and signalling will be digital or digital ready from 2019. Trains will become faster, more frequent, more punctual and safer, benefiting passengers across the network over the next decade. In the next two years 7,000 new and refurbished rail vehicles will start serving Britain’s railway lines. The industry as a whole will run an additional 6,400 trains per week. This is the biggest introduction of new rolling stock in the country in decades, according to the Rail Delivery Group.

The improved rolling stock will have more seats, better accessibility, power sockets, wifi and air-conditioning. Along some lines the new trains will increase capacity, while on others they will run additional services. Importantly, all these digital upgrades are taking place across many different train operating companies.

Not just a buzzword

Railtex, the UK’s international exhibition of railway equipment, systems and services, predicts that over the next few years we can expect to see a European Train Control System which will allow trains to run closer together and travel at their best speeds while at safe braking distances. In addition, we will see Driver Advisory Systems which will support train drivers with decision making by giving them the information they need at the right time to boost performance and safety. Traffic Management systems will help maximise the performance of trains across the network, and global telecommunications networks will connect all these systems.

According to Kirsten Whitehouse, the Exhibition Manager for Railtex 201 “digital is more than just a buzzword in the rail industry, it has a huge part to play in the modernisation of our network and making journeys better and safer for customers, operators and infrastructure owners.”


At LAPP we applaud the much-needed digitalisation of Britain’s rail network. And like no other we understand that expanding and updating rail traffic is a major challenge. One of the biggest challenges that any company attempting railway improvements will face is the availability of cables and connection solutions. Large minimum order volumes and long lead times are standard in this area, resulting in product shortages, high warehousing costs and an overall delay in proposed project deadlines.

Our promise

This will not be the case if you decide to choose LAPP as your supplier. We offer an extensive range for the rail industry, comprising of over 850 products and 500 cables, including connectors and glands, power and control cables, cable protection systems and marking solutions. We aim to make products available quickly, in the right quantity and at the right time. And this doesn’t only apply to major projects – we also take small orders with no minimum quantities and we supply tailored cable lengths.

How do we achieve this? We all may have to wait for a train occasionally, but at LAPP we don’t wait for orders before commencing production. We deliver directly from the warehouse, where we currently house more than a million metres of cable. And far from being merely a cable manufacturer, we can offer you full connection solution packages – all from under one roof.

Our extra flexible cables in the ÖLFLEX® CLASSIC SF and ÖLFLEX® TRAIN ranges are suitable for use in all major areas of railway technology. Our oil- and UV-resistant SKINTOP® connection solutions and vibration-proof EPIC® connector systems are perfect for harsh environments, high temperatures or outdoor applications. So climb aboard – we are the right railway technology partner for you.