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East Midlands Railway on right track for digital transformation

Image: Adobe Stock / JarekKilian

Established as a franchise by Abellio in 2019, East Midlands Railway (EMR) connects people and places across the East Midlands and through to London.

Working in partnership to connect cities, support communities and create easier journeys for everyone, EMR is investing £600 million bringing customer improvements to its services, trains and stations.

As part of this investment, the company is improving its trains and introducing a new intercity fleet, as well as refurbishing two new, faster and more modern regional fleets. To keep passengers up-to-date, they have  launched a new website, mobile app and ticket buying facilities, while encouraging Smartcard use to help reduce paper waste and streamline the travel experience.


To facilitate these significant infrastructure and service improvements, EMR needed to increase its network connectivity capacity by a factor of four, while also adding previously unconnected green field station sites to its network for the first time – representing approximately one-third of their overall station estate. This was an obligation put to EMR by the Department for Transport to ensure it could provide excellent passenger connectivity across all of EMR stations.

Key to delivering these objectives was upgrading and replacing legacy IT infrastructure hardware, software and services inherited by EMR when they took over the franchise. The existing technologies were not only both costly and unstable but didn’t provide the data connectivity needed by 21st century passengers who expect to be able to use their digital devices at all times.


Node4 provided a comprehensive response to EMR’s tender process whilst offering flexibility around delivery and terms, all supported by competitive commercials. This included the availability of its Midlands data centre for EMR server hosting, extensive networking capabilities and references from businesses EMR had experience working with. 

The digital transformation solution comprises fully managed, secure SD-WAN connectivity across 104 EMR sites, six racks of colocation space within the Node4 data centre and offsite backup services providing 60TB of capacity. The sites were broken into five key bands; head office locations, depots and Category A, B and C stations. Key milestones included the hardware build, fixed line delivery (Ethernet, FTTC and xDSL circuitry) and mobile connectivity, with the majority of connectivity services deployed within six months of site readiness completion.


The Node4 solution has provided EMR with significantly more bandwidth at previously connected sites and connectivity into previously green field locations (where EMR had no network infrastructure before the project was initiated).  

“We saw huge improvements in our key ‘Category A’ stations with footfall increases going from 100Mbps connectivity to dual 300Mbps connectivity,” explained Lee Styles, Head of IT at East Midlands Railways. “A great example of this is our critical station in Nottingham which increased from 20Mbps to dual 300Mbps”.

Overall EMR experienced: 

  • Quadrupled bandwidth of previous capacity at 70% of its stations and doubled capacity at a further 12%, achieving its Department for Transport obligation  
  • Levels of ‘acceptable’ connectivity rose from approximately 30% to 100%.

Total Cost of Ownership has significantly improved, with connectivity across each site now costing thousands of pounds less per year to operate than before, with the upgraded and newly installed infrastructure acting as a catalyst for EMR to implement more effective retail solutions – an average cost reduction of 40% per station. This includes upgraded ticket machines, smart ticketing, new customer information screens and a major expansion of station Wi-Fi performance for customers.

“Working with Node4 on this key digital transformation initiative has enabled us to enhance the passenger experience while significantly improving performance and reliability,” explained Lee Styles, Head of IT at East Midlands Railways.

“Our partnership with Node4 has been a positive experience and has played an important role in driving the development of a data culture within EMR – something we see as crucial to the long-term strategy of the business and our ability to deliver an excellent service to our customers.”

Looking ahead, EMR is also focusing on adding Network Access Control, Access Points for Category C stations and SOC services that can be extended to and integrated with the existing SD-WAN asset investments.

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