A project from the University of Surrey, Loughborough University and Pervasive Intelligence could save rail users precious time by giving them precise information that would allow them to be in the right place at the right time to board their train.
Passengers get very little information about an approaching train when they are on the platform beyond departure times, the destinations and, at times, the number of railcars available. This causes many people to hedge their bets by standing in the middle of the platform and rushing to find the right carriage when their train arrives. This can cause safety risks, slower boarding times, and can hamper the overall user experience.
As information about an incoming train, such as the on-board facilities and the location of each railcar, is currently hard to come by and inconsistent, researchers developed a new approach that helped to fill this information gap. The team used a scanning device that detected Wi-Fi signals from passing trains and developed a web-service to identify the order in which the railcars would arrive, as well as the facilities available on-board.
The team also placed passengers in a simulated environment to test how they would behave on a platform if they were presented with information currently available, enhanced information developed by the study and information that could feasibly be provided in the future with the addition of minor infrastructure change, such as platform zones and markings. The results of the tests found that passengers stood in the best possible position on the platform when they received information that was mostly visual and continuously available, such as from a platform-based display. They also found that passengers wanted that information to be supported by short audio announcements and an app that showed relevant coach information and recommended boarding points.
“We have demonstrated that passengers change their behavior based on enhanced information made possible by technology available today. This provides a compelling case for companies to integrate such technology to improve their existing services,” said Dr. David Williams, lecturer in secure systems at the University of Surrey. “We continue to work with the industry on a number of projects to improve passenger safety and experience.”
Researchers are taking this information and using it to develop new customer information systems for enableID and other upcoming projects.