Ensure inclusive sectoral transition to a digitalised rail industry (own-initiative opinion)

EESC opinion: Ensure inclusive sectoral transition to a digitalised rail industry (own-initiative opinion)


Digitalisation is on everyone’s lips, often spoken of as an irresistible force for change. We are told that in its scale, speed and complexity, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) is unlike anything humankind has experienced before. These changes are transforming the nature of work and the individual behaviour of users in Europe without regard for the role and place of the human factor.

Nevertheless, all transport modes and logistics are affected by automation and digitalisation. Pessimistic estimations predict job losses in the overall economy of between 40 and 50%, while more optimistic estimations vary between 8 and 10%. Entire professions - such as drivers and dockers - might disappear in the transport sector. Transport services in a closed and predictable environment are first to be affected, including all repetitive tasks that can be easily programmed and taken over by computers or robots. New jobs will involve supervising computers and programming. Trends towards both the disqualification of jobs, for instance in maintenance, and the up-skilling of jobs are possible. Potentially, there should be more opportunities for work in customer care and customer services. Digitalisation allows for more effective de-localisation of transport service jobs, as even the supervising of machines or vessels, trains and trucks can be de-localised. Digitalisation also has a huge impact on health & safety at work (psychosocial risks): permanent connectivity and higher potential for performance control and supervision. There is a problem regarding workers’ data protection.