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Train operator displays social distancing capacity by measuring carriage weight

Image credit: Dreamstime

English train operator Southeastern has begun providing data on how busy its services are based on the weight of passengers in the carriage.

The loading data is being shown on its website next to each service, letting people make a decision about whether to board crowded carriages or wait for the next train.

The SeatFinder service is designed to help those who are particularly concerned about coronavirus and keep trains as socially distanced as possible.

SeatFinder updates daily, using train loading information from the previous week, and Southeastern says it is the first operator to share this data with passengers.

The new service covers 93 per cent of its stations and comes at a particularly critical time as schools reopen and commuters return to their offices.

From 5 September, Southeastern’s timetable will be back to almost pre Covid-19 levels, with 98 per cent of services running. Seat availability will also be improved, with the addition of an extra 900 carriages and 50,000 seats.

By checking live departure boards on the Southeastern website and at stations, passengers will see red, amber or green indicators showing the level of available capacity on trains.

These carriage capacity indicators will be set according to standards ensuring there is sufficient space for passengers to keep 2m or 1m apart whilst on-board.

John Backway, head of retail at Southeastern, said: “The next couple of months will see many people returning to the railway network as schools and workplaces try to get back to a new normal. During this period, many of our regular passengers will want to adjust their travel patterns based on government guidance, so we’re pleased to be introducing this new solution to the rail sector that helps address this.

“Our teams at Southeastern have worked extremely hard to make the data available and accessible to help passengers plan their journeys and support social distancing to ensure they can be confident of a safe travel experience.”

The service will be rolled out more widely on Southeastern’s app and journey planner website in September and will also include data to highlight the type and status of on-board toilet facilities.

In June, the operator of Thameslink integrated weight sensors onto its trains to get a better understanding of current capacities, albeit without offering this information to passengers as Southeastern has done.

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