UK rail and tech companies team up on data, advanced travel apps
UK rail companies to work closer with tech firms to improve services for passengers
The UK government hopes data transparency and standardisation will help improve services

UK rail and tech companies team up on data, advanced travel apps

UK rail and tech companies are to work more closely, with greater amounts of real-time information enabling more capable travel apps.

Under new plans announced today by the UK’s transport minister Jo Johnson, and Paul Plummer, the CEO of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), the UK should see more seamless, hassle-free journeys, and better information for passengers on services and delays, as well as seats and on-board facilities, like toilets and refreshments.

In addition, better use of data may also allow rail companies to plan more effectively and to predict and fix issues before they arise, creating a more reliable rail service.

The government and the Rail Delivery Group have published the Joint Rail Data Action Plan, which sets out a number of obligations and deadlines for delivering these targets, and will be overseen by an industry-led taskforce.

Keeping customers informed

The initiative will build on data that the industry has already made available; with more datasets becoming accessible to developers in the coming months. The hope is that these will provide more up-to-date information about train services, delays and disruption.

More specific information on carriages will also be visible, so that passengers know about the facilities near them before they board, and if a toilet or air conditioning unit is out of order.

The programme is encouraging the rail industry to take this a step further by removing barriers to better information sharing, improving standardised data collection, storage and publishing, and clarifying what data is commercially sensitive and the purposes it can be used for.

To demonstrate the industry’s commitment to opening-up more data, within the next 12 months, RDG will make available:

  • GPS train data which will provide accurate information on the location of train services, enabling passengers to track train movement
  • real-time train centric data, which will provide information on train compositions, seat availability and the status of on-board services and facilities
  • granular disruption data, which will provide better information on delays, cancellations and services alterations
  • better information on station facilities

Commenting on the agreement, Rail Delivery Group CEO Paul Plummer said:

Technology gave rise to the railway, connecting Britain, and the rail industry wants to channel this spirit to help produce cutting-edge products and services that can be exported around the world.

“Digital technology in rail already means more timely information and less time spent waiting, helping to put customers in charge, and as part of the rail industry’s plan to change and improve we want to use technology to give customers more and more control.”

Internet of Business says

Britain has some of the most congested and intensively used railway lines in Europe. Many of UK’s 1.7 billion rail passengers last year will have been frustrated by the country’s aging infrastructure and sometimes unreliable services.

Demand for rail has doubled since the mid-1990s and is projected to increase by another 15% by 2024. If rail operators are to successfully service this growing need, they will need to make clever use of data to make the network run as smoothly as possible, and communicate with their customers more effectively.

Often, a lack of information adds to the feeling of helplessness when faced with delays and cancellations. By giving app developers access to more data, customers can better plan their journey’s and adapt when necessary.

Tibco has been working with Nederlandse Spoorwegen to achieve similar goals in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, back in the UK, digital twin technology is already helping West Coast Mainline trains run on time.