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AI-driven revolution in transport systems: Expert in the field

Since 2022, Melnikov Leonid has concentrated on digital transportation projects involving major airlines and logistics companies

Photo courtesy of Melnikov Leonid, expert in digital transportation
Photo courtesy of Melnikov Leonid, expert in digital transportation

Opinions expressed by Digital Journal contributors are their own.

“Artificial Intelligence (AI), including Machine Learning (ML), offers the opportunity to make transportation systems safer, and more equitable, reliable, accessible, secure, efficient, and resilient,” according to a report published by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT).

Another recent report on AI in railways published by the International Union of Railways (UIC) suggests the major potential of AI in the railway industry across multiple use cases. The perspective of American markets was brought to this report by Leonid Melnikov, who has emerged as one of the leading experts in this field, with his pioneering projects and influential reports being drivers of tomorrow’s transport industry. Before his stint at McKinsey, Melnikov, a certified project manager and data management professional who holds an MBA with distinction from London Business School, had previously worked for System Integrators. His works range from the integration of AI in railways to the digitalization of urban transport, giving an insight into how technologies can revolutionize transport systems across the globe. 

These achievements have set new benchmarks for efficiency, safety, and operational excellence, making his story a must-read for those interested in the future of transportation.

The global railway industry during the early 2020s was at a turning point. Traditional methods used for ages had served their purpose well, but they were not enough to keep up with the needs of the swelling population and the increasingly complex supply chains. The requirement for the implementation of smarter and more effective strategies was becoming more obvious. This is exactly where Melnikov’s deep insight and innovative thinking have met the problem. Among other things, his work with the International Union of Railways (UIC) consists of a landmark report on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in railways. The report, which included inputs from approximately 20 major railway companies, called attention to the potential of AI in transforming a market that is reported to generate between $13 billion and $22 billion annually through better service planning, operation efficiency, and financial performance. “AI is not just a technological advancement; it’s a paradigm shift that will redefine how we approach transportation. Railway companies can achieve unparalleled levels of efficiency and service quality by effectively using AI,” reads one part of his report. According to the publication, the adaptation of these technologies is likely to transform railways by reducing delays, cutting operational costs, and enhancing security. Implementation processes are already underway, with many railway companies adopting recommendations from this research, signaling a marked shift towards more intelligent and efficient railway systems.

Besides the report, Melnikov also played an imporcritical role in the digitalization of transportation systems in the Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EEMEA) region from 2014 to 2022. From McKinsey CIS, where he worked as a consultant, project manager, junior partner, and later partner, he led initiatives bringing the most advanced digital solutions into an essentially analog industry. Among other things done by him were the development and introduction of smart tools for all modes of transport, enhancing efficiency, safety levels, and customer service. One such project was the digitization of urban transport in a major European city, carried out by Melnikov. During this period, real-time tracking systems were established, along with predictive maintenance schedules and integrated ticketing platforms. “The growth in urban population calls for the digitization of urban transport. We can develop stronger and more adaptive transport methods when we use digital,” noted Melnikov during his presentation at Transport Week held in Moscow in 2021. Such projects have been instrumental in transforming transportation infrastructure in more than 10 countries, thereby directly influencing economic and operational capabilities within these countries. The successes achieved showed that Melnikov could navigate through complex environments, producing tangible results along the way.

Melnikov has been a prolific writer and thought leader, contributing to the debate on digital transformation in transportation through some really impactful publications. One of his articles, “Reopening Cities after COVID-19,” published by McKinsey & Company, offered critical ways for people to go back to work while remaining safe from transport risks. This paper is mentioned in various academic works and policy documents as its implications are pervasive in worldwide transportation systems. In his highly referenced article, Melnikov noted, “It is very important to be cautious and reopen in stages to maintain low infection rates while trying to restore essential services. We need better safety measures and public health metrics in our planning for the long-term recovery.” These ideas have helped shape cities globally through the reopening of their public transport systems, striking a balance between safety and efficacy.

Melnikov has been sought-after at numerous high-level conferences worldwide. His findings on AI in railways were presented at the France (2023) and South Korea (2024) UIC conferences, as well as the CyberSecurity in Railways conference held in the U.S. in 2024. These speeches have given industry leaders insights into how AI integration is shaping the digitalization of transportation on a global scale.

Since his relocation to America in 2022, Melnikov has concentrated on digital transportation projects involving major airlines and logistics companies. In this sphere, he has implemented advanced AI and other digital tools designed to streamline operations, improve the customer experience, and boost overall productivity. 

The contributions made by Leonid Melnikov to digitalizing transportation are deep and extensive. He pioneered the use of AI in rail transport and has been at the forefront of digitalization programs in several regions, all of which have had a major impact on the sector. Today, his contributions to thought leadership, strategic initiatives, and global influence continue to shape the future of transportation, making him an important voice in the current digital revolution. As he remains innovative and continues to lead, it would mean that his work will further transform the industry with much social impact.

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Jon Stojan is a professional writer based in Wisconsin. He guides editorial teams consisting of writers across the US to help them become more skilled and diverse writers. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and children.

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