Student analyses railway data for resident company Digital Rail

The Organisation

Digital Rail Limited is a Lancaster University based organisation working alongside the School of Computing and Communications in InfoLab21 that offers specialised consulting and training products for the niche area of rail systems engineering and management, and railway system safety. The company provides big data solutions to railway risk assessment and training support in the form of gamified digital solutions that heavily incorporate virtual worlds and simulation.

The Challenge

The company was looking for support in undertaking an analysis of railway data and approached Lancaster University for assistance turning surveys and questionnaires into railway accident reports and classify the data according to their causes.

Skills Sought

  • BSc/MSc/ Engineering, Computer Science, Maths, Physics, Statistics
  • Numerate and proficiency in coding
  • Good awareness of statistics
  • Understanding of basic engineering concepts

The Solution

Kanza Noor Syeda MSc International Innovation (Computer Science) was recruited through the Science and Technology Internship Programme for a 12 week internship with Digital Rail to undertake surveys and collate data, to help produce reports that detail research findings, to attend meetings with clients and to help with product development and coding.


The internship was part-financed by Digital Rail at £1,800+VAT, and part-financed by Santander, with a total value of £3,600.


Kanza’s work allowed Digital Rail to engage further with clients using the results of the data.

Benefits to the company

  • Saved management time and money
  • Extra support when meeting clients
  • Engaged further with clients using the results of the data

Company Feedback

“Kanza has delivered for me an excellent piece of research using Natural Language Processing as means of analysing accident data, in order to understand railway accident causation. I could recommend the internship program to other SMEs as a means to explore new topic areas, and exploit leading edge knowledge in Lancaster University and the top drawer graduates it produces.” Dr Howard Parkinson, Director of Digital Rail Limited.

Student Feedback

“The internship program afforded me the opportunity to work on a real world problem in the area of rail systems engineering, management, and safety. It also gave me valuable real world research experience that helped refine the skills I had developed during my M.Sc at Lancaster University.

"My work focused on investigating how new and cutting edge technologies could be employed to improve safety standards in the railway industry. Specifically, I examined the application of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning for extracting meaningful information from railway accident reports and subsequent risk analysis.

"This entailed understanding the strategies and policies adopted by the RAIB, RSSB, and digital rail for improving safety standards in the railway industry, and identifying the NLP and machine learning techniques that could best fit and complement those strategies. The internship also helped hone interpersonal and communications skills through close contact with research groups at InfoLab21." Kanza Noor Syeda MSc International Innovation (Computer Science), Digital Rail Intern.

Future Plans

­­Digital Rail will continue to engage with the University in future projects, as well as continuing as a resident company within InfoLab21.