train station app

Rail firms' data-sharing proposals to enable better UK travel apps

Image credit: DT

More real-time train information is to be made more accessible to tech companies under government plans to improve travel apps in the UK.

The measure is aimed at giving passengers access to enhanced information such as service updates, seat availability, toilet facilities and catering.

It is also believed that better use of data could allow operators to plan more effectively to predict and fix train faults before they cause disruption.

The Joint Rail Data Action Plan, which was published by the Department for Transport and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), will involve standardisation of how data is collected, stored and published, and clarify what data is commercially sensitive.

“The government’s strategic vision for rail is to offer world-class services supported by outstanding customer care and value for money,” the Department for Transport said.

“To achieve this, we need to innovate. For example, by changing the way the railway is structured, getting track and train to work closely together, and realising the full potential of emerging technologies.

“Using data more intelligently, and increasing collaboration between the rail industry and other sectors, will be key to delivering these improvements.

“It will create opportunities to exchange ideas, to devise new solutions to improve the running of the railways, to predict and fix problems before they arise, and to develop new tools and products for passengers such as better journey-planning apps.”

It said that the greater availability of more nuanced data sets could lead to the development of personalised travel apps in addition to other industry-focused uses.

1.7 billion passengers travelled by rail in the UK last year, a doubling of usage since the mid-1990s.

This is projected to increase by another 15 per cent by 2024, putting increasing strain on the network.

RDG chief executive 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. As part of the rail industry’s plan to change and improve we want to use technology to give customers more and more control.”

Last month Hitachi Rail and Bombardier Transportation launched a joint bid to build the HS2 train carriages, which would see construction happen in Britain if successful. 

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