Train line gets £35m upgrade

Train line gets £35m upgrade

Complete new network and communication systems are planned

Rail operator London Overground (LO) is spending £35m on IT integration and application upgrades following its takeover of the capital’s Silverlink Metro service last year.

The programme must meet standards set out by Transport for London (TfL) in time for the 2012 Olympics.

The seven-year train operation contract includes a new network and improved software for back-office administration and customer services, LO head of IT Gareth Murphy told Computing.

“We are following strict performance guidelines determined by TfL and are working hard to finish on schedule,” he said.

A wide area network linking the 35 stations taken over from Silverlink, as well as branch offices and train depots, will be up and running this spring.

“We are replacing the legacy network, which does not have enough bandwidth to support new applications, with a more robust link,” said Murphy.

Internal communication systems are also being modernised, with a voice over IP system from Voicenet Solutions. Customer-facing applications to be
updated include management systems for user information screens and CCTV.

Extension of London’s Oyster ticket systems is also part of the challenge.

“Station ticket machines support card payments, but are not very reliable and we are working to address that in the next couple of years,” said Murphy.

Planning ahead is the key to efficient integration, according to Dave Lynch, group technology director at rival train operator Go Ahead.

“A thorough business plan ensures the effectiveness of such large projects,” he said.

“It all starts by quickly migrating smaller parts of the business, such as changing email addresses, to high-priority tasks such as implementing a reliable data network and customer information systems.”

The Olympic deadline date will maintain focus, said Ovum analyst Graham Titterington.

“Rail operators have struggled with years of backdated IT infrastructure from British Rail,” he said. “Four years should be more than enough time to put things right and the pressure of the Olympics will hopefully speed up things.”