In Q1 of 2019, rail passenger journeys grew 2.4% compared to the same period in 2018. Passenger revenue and the average length of journey also increased too. Despite the rise in usage, passenger satisfaction was only at 83%. This is good - but it needs to be so much better.
Train Operating Companies (TOCs) need to improve and modernise the quality of their services if they’re to keep up with passenger demands. Here are six rail industry innovation ideas to look out for 2020 that can do just that.
- Augmented Reality and Holographic Projection for Rail
- 3D Laser Scanners
- Thermal and Visual Imaging Equipment
- Interactive Windows
- Digital Twin Models
- The Internet of Trains
1. Augmented Reality and Holographic Projection for Rail
Augmented reality (AR) was something that’s been in the pipeline for the rail industry for several years. It took some major steps forward a few years ago when Keolis Commuter Services launched smart glasses that allowed staff in the field to transmit images from the site to technicians at the maintenance headquarters.
The idea behind this was to enable office-based workers to offer advice without needing to travel to the site, which can help save both time and money for the company and reduce delays for passengers.
In the next few years, this will go even further. High Speed 1 is partnering with NRHS to introduce AR headsets that can holographically project digital assets into the real world. These Microsoft HoloLens headsets will turn any space into a training environment for maintenance workers so they no longer need to spend large amounts of time on tracks. This can help improve safety, quality of training and reduce service disruptions for passengers.
2. 3D Laser Scanners
3D laser scanners are quickly being adopted in multiple industries and rail is no exception for 2019. The German rail system is using 3D scanners to accurately measure tracks and effectively plan routes.
This technology has the ability to collect millions of measurable data points, from dimensions to spatial relationships of objects, accurately within seconds. This dramatically reduces the time that would have been spent otherwise, eliminates the chances of inaccurate data being collected and in particular, helps with complex projects.
3. Thermal and Visual Imaging Equipment
Network Rail displayed their revamped survey helicopters at Rail Live 2019. Survey helicopters feature high-tech thermal and visual equipment which allows maintenance teams to quickly cover large areas and identify the smallest of faults in assets or the surrounding environment.
Equipment like this can help to significantly cut down on the time and money spent checking rail equipment for faults and allow teams to quickly react to problems before they occur.
4. Interactive Train Windows
In 2016, it was announced that German railway provider Deutsche Bahn and American research company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) were to create the “Innovation Train”.
Although there has been some delays to the project, the trains are set to reach speeds of up to 760mph. This train’s most notable feature is the touch-screen interactive windows which would allow passengers to access information like the destination and high profile events, time and date, temperature, train speed and more.
5. Digital Twin Models
London’s Crossrail, which will be known as the Elizabeth Line when it opens sometime in 2021, uses a digital twin model of the entire network. Digitally twinning all of the physical assets, from facilities and systems to environments, makes it much easier for engineers and data scientists to gain a deeper understanding of the complete network.
But it’s not just a digital representation. It also allows teams to see what the actual physical system is doing, so they can monitor activities in real-time and respond to changes before they happen. This can help engineers design future networks that are smarter, more efficient and effective.
6. The Internet of Trains
The IoT (the Internet of Things, not just trains) refers to all the systems, software and devices that are connected to each other and have the ability to transfer data over the internet. This phenomenon has made many industries, including the rail sector, run more smoothly and efficiently.
For instance, many trains are starting to offer WiFi included in their services. Fast train WiFi allows passengers to remain connected so they can still access all the information they may want to via their favourite apps and other resources even when they have left the station. For example, they can check emails, social media, online shop, watch movies and TV shows.
By providing this passenger entertainment, TOCs can ensure that their passengers are occupied while they travel which helps to boost mood and improve their overall travelling experience. This, alongside other rail engagement tactics, will encourage passengers to travel with you again.
Passenger WiFi can also provide TOCs with vital analytical data. It can enable TOCs to see passenger activity, such as the routes they take, the times they travel and how long they dwell on transport and in stations.
With smarter analytics platforms, other data sources can be integrated into the WiFi platform, which can include ticket sales, parking information, weather feeds and more. This allows TOCs to build a complete passenger profile and begin to understand their passengers behaviour in great detail.
Data like this can help TOCs adapt their offerings to the specific type of passenger, such as providing targeted promotional messages and concessions at the station to boost brand awareness, improve engagement and increase sales even more.
How You Can Improve Passenger Satisfaction
Improving the passenger experience is something that TOCs should always keep in mind when pursuing rail industry innovation ideas. While highly advanced technologies like augmented reality and interactive windows may seem like the ultimate ideas that can impress your passengers, simply providing a continuously connected passenger journey can be the ideal first place to start.
Download our ultimate guide to the continuously connected passenger journey to find out more on what it is, how to implement it and its benefits to both your passengers and company.