The next train service calling at platform one will… let you know where it is, find you a seat and show you the nearest toilet

Next year rail customers across the country will start to benefit from smoother journeys with a series of tech upgrades and trials to keep passengers better informed, the rail industry says.

GPS being introduced from next year and camera recognition technology currently being trialed will empower customers to have more choice in how they take their journey. Once rolled out, the new technology will provide better and more timely information to help customers at some of the most stressful points of their journey.

Research commissioned by the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, shows that customers are most anxious when facing uncertainty, for example when standing on a platform or making a connection. The research also confirms that passengers are frustrated when information about their service isn’t delivered at the right time.

Chiltern, Grand Central, LNER and parts of Northern and ScotRail will be the first train networks to use a new GPS-led information system from January. Currently a train’s location is only measured at fixed points and these can be anything from 200 metres to over 5 miles apart. Moving to GPS will provide better than ever accuracy of train journey information to passengers and will reduce instances of trains predicted to be on time suddenly showing as delayed.

New camera recognition technology, which identifies each carriage, is being piloted by Arriva Rail London. This aims to provide better information on the number and order of carriages on trains and when carriages need to be cleaned.

As more trains become connected to the Internet of Things, data on the order of carriages means customers will know whether the toilet is working and accessible, where emptier carriages are (calculated by footfall and reservations), and even where to stand on the platform to board the train. This will build on improvements already underway, with weighing technology available on GTR's Class 700 Thameslink trains to tell passengers on board how busy each carriage is and whether toilets are occupied. 

The new data will be used by the National Rail app ‘Alert Me’ tool and the Facebook Messenger tool designed by Zipabout to provide personalised information to customers, including suggestions for alternative routes during disruption. It will also feed in to the new Passenger Assist app currently in trial, which will provide customers with live information about their journey and better information about accessibility at stations and on trains.

Jacqueline Starr, Managing Director of Customer Experience at the Rail Delivery Group, said:

“In 2019, technology will continue to transform the way we travel by train, as the railway introduces new innovations to provide more useful, up-to-date and personalised information at people’s fingertips. We want to give customers more control over their journey than ever before and tackle the key points where they get frustrated, as the rail industry works to change and improve."

The data will also be available for use by journey planning apps – meaning live data on trains will be integrated alongside bus and trams to help plan whole journeys and reroute during disruption. For apps like Citymapper, the data it already uses will automatically improve as the rail industry rolls out the new technology.


Notes to editors

  • A report commissioned by the Rail Delivery Group and prepared by Sparks Grove in September 2018, analysing 60 different research documents and gathering 300 unique insights from customers demonstrating customer needs, shows:
    • 53% of insights suggest customers feel more stressed when there is ambiguity about key parts of their journey, e.g. where to stand on the platform or how to make a connection
    • 25% of insights suggest incorrect timing of information causes customer frustration, as information is often given to customers too early, becoming inaccurate at the correct time, or too late and has knock-on impacts on the overall journey
    • 22% of the insights gathered suggest customers are reluctant to trust the information provided, often ‘crowdsourcing’ their own answers via other sites and social media.
  • GPS train tracking accurate to a few metres will be delivered across all trains and the whole network by 2024.
  • RDG have been supported in this work by research and innovation developments from 21st Century Video and Surrey University.


Contact Information

Rail Delivery Group Media Team