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John Pelton MBE – A Railway of Firsts – Crossrail Pioneering Digital Transport and Systematic Innovation

Dan Ginger Wednesday, 21 January 2015.

John Pelton MBE is the Strategic Projects Director and Head of Innovation of Europe's largest infrastructural programme – Crossrail – the first project of its kind to host a dedicated innovation team. With each train holding 1500 passengers (around double the capacity of a standard London underground service) and the project bringing over 1.5million extra people to within 45 minutes of London's key hubs, the programme has fostered and nurtured innovative solutions that are revolutionising the transport and logistics sectors.

JP Profile pic Feb 14 2

Dubbed 'The First Digital Railway', we are fortunate to have John – a pioneer behind the project's many modernising facets, talking about Crossrail at this year's EntrepreneurCountry Global Forum, which will be held on February 3rd at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Make sure that you don't miss John by purchasing your ticket here. John spoke to EntrepreneurCountry Global about the benefits of the programme, and how it seeks to develop even further by interacting with entrepreneurs.

John firstly spoke of the benefits that passengers will receive by using Crossrail. With trains that are 200metres in length and up to 24 trains running per hour in each direction in the central area, Crossrail will reduce congestion on London Underground. 3.7million people used the tube per day on average in 2013 – and with the London population increasing to over 10million by 2030, the current system is becoming overwhelmed. Crossrail will provide much needed capacity increases – improving the flow of travellers in the capital.

As well as having efficiency benefits in terms of travel time, Crossrail will aid the experience and enjoyment of the journey, with features such as air-conditioning installed on trains. As John also noted – "You've got to look at the quality of the travel experience. When Crossrail is finished you will be able to travel from, say Reading, an interchange with the West of England rail network, and go all the way through central London and then out towards Shenfield in Essex , without having to change trains. And indeed, turning it round, if you happen to live in one of the new conurbations, say Woolwich, you will be able to travel to the centre of the city within 15 minutes." Crossrail goes beyond the London commuter - more people will be able to travel more easily, and have increased space and improve surroundings to enhance the overall experience. Referring to the stations, John remarked that "all have been designed to incorporate modern design to enhance passenger flows, movements, as well as to make them pleasant places to be in."

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The economic benefits will also be spread: Crossrail can be expected to contribute up to £42billion to the UK economy. Over 10,000 people are currently working on the project. "62% of the suppliers for Crossrail are based outside of London...all of Crossrail's trains are being built in Derby – that's a billion pound contract." So far an estimated £5.5billion of contracts have been handed out overall, producing up to 75,000 unique business opportunities.

Crossrail is at the cutting edge of innovation in multiple sectors – from engineering to environmental sustainability to digital incorporation, Crossrail has been at the forefront of trendsetting and has set multiple precedents for rail projects in the future. For example, "the Crossrail line being threaded between the Northern Line running tunnels and the foundations of Centre Point at Tottenham Court Road with a 400millimetre clearance between the two tunnels, while the Northern Line continued operating, that's cutting-edge engineering of the first order." Perhaps the flagship innovation brought about by Crossrail has been the digital modelling platform used to build it. It is the first programme that has achieved "a virtual environment that allows planning, scheduling, designing, building assembly all to be planned or prepared using the computer model. We have a very large underground model of London along the line of the route and either side."

Crossrail will be based on digital systems that utilise the big datasets gathered along it: "the data that will be generated from that will be of value both in terms of transport planning and management - and also it'll have economic aspects to it. Smart cities as a concept are growing, as technology is constantly integrated with logistical and lifestyle ecosystems. For example the European Initiative on Smart Cities (EISC) seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020 and has actioned nearly 20 trial projects in sustainable building complexes to demonstrate its mechanisms for doing so. Similarly, Crossrail has integrated environmentally innovative solutions to track design, electrical use and materials used – integrating technology to provide data that can be reused to inform continued efficiency.

BFK C300-410 Hanover Square December 2014 172763

Crossrail will be based on digital systems that utilise the big datasets gathered along it: "the data that will be generated from that will be of value both in terms of transport planning and management - and also it'll have economic aspects to it. Smart cities as a concept are growing, as technology is constantly integrated with logistical and lifestyle ecosystems. For example the European Initiative on Smart Cities (EISC) seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020 and has actioned nearly 20 trial projects in sustainable building complexes to demonstrate its mechanisms for doing so. Similarly, Crossrail has integrated environmentally innovative solutions to track design, electrical use and materials used – integrating technology to provide data that can be reused to inform continued efficiency.

These innovations have not just occurred overnight however – it is the result of careful planning and the fact that "Crossrail is the first major project ever to have set up an innovation programme as a systematic activity within a major infrastructure programme." "One of the processes that we set up to make that happen is membership of the innovation programme. We've essentially asked all tier 1 contractors to put some money up and we've match funded it from Crossrail to create a pool that's allowed us to fund innovations." Funding is dedicated specifically for innovation in a project that has also committed to open innovation principles. Open innovation has had great historical success – acknowledging the creativity and perspectives of others, for example the Lego Mindstorms programme in the 1990s vastly improved the variety of Lego blocks and helped Lego to expand to new target audiences. "If collectively we develop something in the programme, a new idea and innovation, then we will open-share that, so that anyone can use it, anyone can borrow it, anyone can access it and anyone can develop it further. We actively encourage sub-process sharing – its referred to as 'pinching with pride'...We recognise through the process people who take – you get as much recognition for what you take and adding to it as you do for having an idea in the first place. So we encourage ideas to be developed." Over 700 innovations have been stored on the Innovate 18 platform, with 30 receiving funding for growth and use on the project.

John highlighted that entrepreneurs and start-ups can get involved with the project. "Buried in the various projects on Crossrail there are applications of technologies that the big companies often find difficult to manage, either because it takes them too long to get them to market, or which they simply can't adapt fast enough to deal with. Yet clients may want to see them, and they want access to them." It is here that start-ups could begin to work with Crossrail and its tier 1 contractors to influence the project and make a difference. As John noted, "when you look back there are a lot of examples of things that have been done by someone quite small which have then been taken on by the whole industry." Crossrail is looking to hear from small businesses that have agile and novel solutions and would benefit from being part of an innovation programme.

Crossrail truly will have major implications for the way that people travel. "I think when people first get on the Crossrail and try it out, they will be quite staggered by the change." It has innovation at its core, as the first project to host its own dedicated innovation scheme, and has pioneered improvements to design, planning and transportation technology.

Make sure that you don't miss John speaking at this year's EntrepreneurCountry Global Forum, held on February 3rd at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. You can buy your tickets here – don't miss out!
For more information about the Crossrail project, please click here.

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Dan Ginger

Dan Ginger

Dan joined entrepreneurcountry in November 2014, following the award of a First-Class BA (Hons.) degree in Geography from Keble College, The University of Oxford. Alongside writing articles for EntrepreneurCountry, Dan works as an Analyst for the Ariadne Capital team, and is particularly interested in the development of global emerging markets.

LinkedIn Profile: http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/daniel-ginger/5a/b62/804
Twitter: @DanGinge

 

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