The railway industry is looking to use broadband to modernise its archaic network and communication processes. This is as an effort to reduce signal disruptions that occur as a result of rampant copper cable theft.

Delegates at the Africa Rail 2018 conference are deliberating ways to improve the railway industry. The two-day conference kicked off in Johannesburg on Tuesday, and it’s attracted delegates from around the world.

The railway industry losses about R1 billion to rail incidents, such as theft, vandalism, train collisions and derailments.

Money, the Institution of Railway Signal Engineers says, can be better used if invested in infrastructure development.

Investing in rail and transport infrastructure is crucial for economic growth. This as it contributes to the movements of goods and passengers commuting to and from work.

Chairperson of Institution of Railway Signal Engineers, Portia Nkuna says: “This could easily be re-invested in other needs that the country has such as the education system, in as far as the education system is concerned.”

Copper cable theft is a lucrative business for criminal syndicates wanting to make a quick buck. This causes chaos with train schedules and signalling which results in delays and conflict with commuters.

The industry which still relies on copper cable to transmit railway is now looking at optic fibre as an option.

Rail network manager at Transnet, Ceasar Mtetwa says: “Most of the signalling infrastructure we have, is still the old type, which uses copper. So, when people steal copper, like you’ve seen at the robots, when the signalling is not working, you’ve seen the cars bunching up. The same thing happens to trains.”

Broadband improvements could help reduce copper cable theft and contribute to less train incidents.