Providing more and better transport from the passenger’s perspective through initiatives such as Mobility as a Service will help to decarbonise the urban environment as well as reducing congestion, believes Hitachi Rail CEO Andrew Barr.


Cities are big carbon contributors. Today, around half the world’s population lives in cities, but it is estimated that they are responsible for 75% of greenhouse gas emissions. And there is a risk that the problem could get worse as the urbanisation trend continues.


Andrew Barr was appointed as Vice President of Hitachi Ltd and Group CEO of Hitachi Rail in April 2019. Starting his rail career with London Underground in 1990, he later worked at UK train operator GNER, Bombardier Transportation and the Strategic Rail Authority before joining Hitachi in 2005. He served as Head of Maintenance Delivery and later COO at Hitachi Rail Europe, becoming CEO of Hitachi Rail STS in 2016.

Conversely, of course, that same statistic means that cities also offer great opportunities when it comes to decarbonisation, and particularly with regards to urban transport. Cars and buses account for a significant proportion of today’s carbon emissions. As anyone who has ever tried to drive their car in London, San Francisco or Roma will know, congestion and pollution can make living and travelling through cities full of cars very unpleasant — and very slow!

If we want to decarbonise quickly, we already have an answer. Even with today’s power generation mix, rail emits no more than 10% to 20% of the CO2 per passenger km compared with a private car and barely 5% of the emissions of planes. Yet in many part of the world, cars and and planes often still take preference over public transport.

To address this, I believe that we don’t just need to invest in more public transport, we need to provide better transport from the passenger’s perspective. We need to attract travellers away from those polluting cars to lower-carbon modes such as rail or zero-emission buses, as well as encouraging active travel like bicycles and walking.

To make those other modes more attractive and competitive, we have to join those journeys up and provide end-to-end travel opportunities. And that is where the concept of ‘Mobility as a Service’ comes in.

MaaS has around for a few years now, and there are plenty of definitions out there. However, for me the core issue is the need to deliver a better passenger experience as part of a more efficient public transport system. It’s about putting the passenger first.

Moving beyond MaaS


The basic MaaS concept uses digital platforms to connect up all aspects of the ‘mobility experience’. That bundles rail with buses, electric vehicles, scooters, bike hire and so on. Hence the emergence of apps that allow travellers to plan their journeys, select and pay for the appropriate modes, ensuring connectivity at each stage of the trip.

But for me, the digitalisation needs to go further, embracing the operation of ticketing and security systems at the stations, the way that services are scheduled and adapted to meet real-time demand, and even the way that the infrastructure is managed and maintained.

As an example, the driverless metro network in København which we operate has the ability to adapt its timetable to actual passenger demand. If there are few passengers, then services can be thinned out, but the automation allows more trains to be brought online quickly to deal with any surge. This approach helps to keep the operating and maintenance costs low, while ensuring that peak demand can be managed better. Everyone wins.

Drawing on its expertise in signalling, automation, rolling stock, operations, service and maintenance, Hitachi Rail is now building up its fare collection expertise and developing MaaS solutions that benefit both the operators and passengers. Thanks to our Intelligent Mobility concepts, we have a much wider experience in the entire rail value chain, from people flow management, to smarter ticketing and beyond.

Becoming a climate change innovator

Firenze Hitachi battery train testing (Photo GEST) (3)

Hitachi Rail recently tested its first battery-powered tram in Firenze as part of a programme to offer catenary-free vehicles for both urban and main line applications.

We are also working in partnership with Hitachi’s Mobility Accelerator team to invest in pilot projects around the world.

In Genova, Hitachi Rail is working with operator AMT to pilot a new bus congestion and passenger flow monitoring system. Initially covering 11 buses and 49 stops, the system monitors passenger demand and traffic congestion along the route, enabling the operator to manage its timetable and optimise costs, while helping the city to improve the urban environment. The aim is to provide a better level of service and boost the passenger experience, making public transport more attractive and increasing ridership, which in turn will help to tackle the challenges of congestion and pollution.

With Hitachi’s Mobility Accelerator team, we are part of London’s Optimise Prime programme. This is helping to monitor and optimise the charging and maintenance cycles for large fleets of electric vehicles, enabling operators such as Uber and Royal Mail to make the switch to a zero-emission fleet as cost-effective as possible.

And the recently announced agreement for Hitachi Rail to acquire Thales’ Ground Transportation System business is another example of our commitment to developing a stronger MaaS offering that can benefit passengers and cities.

The race to Net Zero

At a global level, Hitachi Ltd is proud to be a Principle Partner to the Mobility theme at the COP26 climate change summit taking place in Glasgow later this year. This will provide an opportunity for us to articulate and accelerate our own decarbonisation commitments on the world stage.

Hitachi has already established long-term environmental targets, looking to achieve carbon neutrality at all its business sites by 2030 and deliver an 80% reduction in CO₂ emissions across the company’s value chain by 2050.

At Hitachi Rail we see three areas where we can contribute to the decarbonisation of transport. It’s a simple plan:

1. drive a modal shift away from cars and planes;

2. accelerate the decarbonisation of rail with the development of battery traction for non-electrified routes;

3. decarbonise our own industrial footprint in line with the UN’s Science-Based Targets initiative.

Transport and mobility are key to the success of any city, large or small. Harnessing MaaS concepts in every aspect of the operation will be key to driving the wider decarbonisation agenda. And I’m looking forward to an exciting journey.