Rail firms deploy GPS technology to cut false ‘on time’ train updates

Gadgets, Internet Of Things
Image: Press Association

New technology will cut the number of false “on time” train descriptions, the rail industry has claimed. A GPS-led location tracking system will be installed on services run by five operators from next month, improving the accuracy of information about their trains’ progress.

Train locations are currently measured at fixed points, which are more than five miles apart in some places.

Chiltern, Grand Central, LNER and parts of Northern and ScotRail will be the first train firms in Britain to use the GPS technology.

This will reduce instances of trains incorrectly showing as “on time” on information boards, apps and websites when they are actually delayed, industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said.

GPS tracking which is accurate to a few metres is due to be delivered across the whole network by 2024. One in seven trains were late in the past 12 months.

RDG research found that passengers are most anxious when facing uncertainty, such as if they are unsure they will make a connection. It also revealed that travellers get frustrated when information about their service is not delivered in a timely fashion.

London Overground operator Arriva Rail London is piloting another technology upgrade, which involves using camera recognition systems to provide better information on the number and order of carriages, and transmit alerts when they need to be cleaned.

As more trains become connected to the internet, passengers will be able to find out the best place to stand on a platform to board their train, which carriages have the most free seats and whether the toilet is working and accessible.

A six-month trial was recently launched to enable passengers to receive personalised journey updates through Facebook Messenger.

RDG managing director of customer experience Jacqueline Starr 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.”

David Sidebottom, director at watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers tell us in our research that they need accurate, timely and personalised information.

“However, there are still too many instances where passengers are left standing on station platforms, waiting for a delayed train without accurate information confirming when their train will arrive.

“Transport Focus welcomes the rail industry’s renewed focus on improving information for passengers and looks forward to seeing this innovation deliver fewer delays and cancellations in 2019.”

Chris Price
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