Innovation in Railway Stations

Stations are critical to the success of the rail network. They are the first point of contact for commuters, helping to shape their journey experience. A station can create a positive journey, or become a major pain point for customers before they reach the rest of the network. Stations also act as a community hub, joining rail with local businesses and communities and providing mobility for local populations.

Looking ahead, new technologies and business models will put an increasing focus on the services a railway station provides. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a hot topic in the industry, creating a vision of digitally managed, seamless journeys between transport modes. Stations are already multi-modal interchanges and their ability to accommodate new demands from customers who are expecting their entire travel experience to be managed door-to-door, will be vital to making any new business model work.

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles also offer exciting opportunities and challenges. Will stations need pick up and drop off points for driverless vehicles? Can data be combined to allow integration of train timetables and the arrival of on-demand vehicles? There are many possibilities, but also challenges to be overcome.

Stations are becoming increasingly busy, making the achievement of the minimum customer standards increasingly difficult. In many instances, legacy infrastructure which was not designed for the modern world, needs to be brought into the 21st century. For many working in the sector, stations are becoming a key focal point for efficiency savings, improvements in customer experience and increase in network capacity throughput.

We need innovation in our stations if they are to meet changing demands and help fulfil the promise of new technologies. However, thanks to regulations, multiple operators and political pressures, innovation has not been easy in this environment and it can be an intimidating space to enter for SMEs. Whilst this is a challenge, it also means there are potentially huge gains to be made from simple solutions.

The Station Innovation Project

The Transport Systems Catapult’s has previously worked on a Stations Innovation project which highlighted the need for developing a culture of innovation within station management and for supporting SMEs looking to enter this space. In 2017, we will be moving onto a second phase focusing on the physical deployment and trials of carefully selected innovations.

With support from the DfT, we have been able to designate Milton Keynes Central station as the UK’s first Smart Station Demonstrator for future innovations within the sector. ‘Station Innovation 2’ will be the first programme of projects to jump start this initiative – allowing SMEs to develop ideas in a supportive environment before attempting to bring them to the wider rail network.

Some of the projects we have already began work on include:

  • Soft operational trials: Conduct trials of soft-measures at MKC station e.g. nudging behaviors to improve station throughput or deploy innovative solutions to improve user experience. TSC will conduct surveys, including customer feedback to assess the impact of proposed solutions.
  • Pedestrian Location Technology trials. The TSC offices will be used as a live laboratory to trial methods of identifying pedestrians with one or two successful solutions being taken through to MKC station to test their operation in a real, complex environment for greater insights into passenger throughput, dwell time and retail opportunities
  • Train timetable optimisation: Explore the concept of a passenger flow led optimised timetabling for a whole route, through engagement with SMEs, industry stakeholders and the application of innovative rail-system and station planning modelling capabilities.
  • Autonomous and Connected Vehicles (CAV) Impact: The future integration of CAV with railway station operation, considering the impact of automated buses and metro, private vehicles with automated parking. The future impact of demand responsive trains and digital railway on station operation is also considered in our study

If you have an Innovative idea that you believe will improve station efficiency and/ or passenger experience, please do get in touch with us. We can help you take the next step, including deploying, testing and assessing the benefit of your solution within a live railway environment. Email kristoff.vanleeuwen@ts.catapult.org.uk if you wish to find out more.

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