Innovative pilot shows Wi-Fi data could improve journeys across the Tube
Between November and December last year TfL ran a four week pilot scheme to discover whether depersonalised Wi-Fi connection data from customers’ mobile devices could be used to better understand how people navigate the London Underground network, and improve their journeys.

The pilot focused on 54 stations in Zones 1-4 and saw more than 509m depersonalised ‘probing requests’ – pieces of data – collected from 5.6m mobile devices making around 42m journeys.

These journeys were analysed and broken into different aggregated movement types to help understand what customers were doing at particular points of their journeys. This yielded a much more accurate understanding of how people move through stations, interchange between services and how crowding develops.

The pilot revealed a number of results that could not have been detected from ticketing data or paper-based surveys. For example, analysis showed that customers travelling between King’s Cross St Pancras and Waterloo take at least 18 different routes, around 40% of them not taking one of the two most popular routes, and many of those not using the shortest route changing Tube lines.

This Wi-Fi data could have a number of benefits, including: enabling staff to inform customers of the best way to avoid disruptionor unnecessary crowding; helping customers plan the route that best suits them; prioritising transport investment to improve services and address regular congestion points; and providing a better insight into customer flows.

While the usual ticketing data for major interchange stations such as Oxford Circus can show the levels of people entering and exiting the stations, it cannot show the huge numbers of people interchanging during peak hours, or precise local areas where crowding occurs on platforms or around escalators, whereas Wi-Fi data can.

TfL has now begun discussions with key stakeholders, including the Information Commissioner’s Office, privacy campaigners and consumer groups about how this data collection could be undertaken on a permanent basis,possibly across the full Tube network.

Dr Hannah Fry from the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London, said: “The Wi-Fi data offers a completely new way to view what’s happening underground. It exposes the pinch-points in the network and can help TfL to understand how and why overcrowding happens – an essential step to making the Tube as safe and efficient as possible. As a Londoner whose journeys are no doubt included in the data collected, I was impressed by how far TfL have gone to take how we feel about our privacy seriously, at every stage they have preserved our anonymity, been transparent about the way the data is used and offered us the option to opt out. Their study serves as an exemplary model of how to treat your customers in the era of big data.”

Free electric car chargers to be installed at ScotRail stations
ScotRail Alliance is rolling out 100 free fast-charging electric car chargers at 50 of its station car parks. The first are now live, and the remainder will follow over the coming weeks.
The chargers will be available to any customer parking at the stations and are free to use. However, electric vehicles must still pay the relevant fee to park where applicable, and drivers must hold a valid ChargePlace Scotland card to activate the charger.

A complete charge from the 22kW supply will typically take around four hours, twice as fast as ‘plugging-in’ at home.

According to the Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders, electric vehicle registrations in Scotland are up 62% on this time last year, and some 1,390 rechargeable electric

RAIB rules on unsafe train dispatch incident at Bank station
The RAIB has published three recommendations following an investigation into the incident at Bank station on 6 Feb 2017 when part of a coat worn by a passenger on the platform became trapped in the closing door of a train. The passenger managed to partially take off her coat before it was dragged from her as the train departed.

The investigation found that the section of coat trapped was too small to be detected by the system fitted to the train door. Additionally, the design of the door nosing rubbers meant that a relatively high pull force was required to extract the coat. And finally, the member of Docklands Light Railway staff on the train was unaware that the coat was trapped as he was dependent on a CCTV system to observe the doors during the dispatch, but defects in this system meant that he could not see that specific door.

RAIB has recommended: a review of the design of door nosing rubbers to reducing the force needed to remove trapped objects; DLR Ltd specification for new trains should include this; and Keolis Amey Docklands should improve its processes for managing platform observation equipment.

Transport Select Committee
The following people have been appointed to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee under the chairmanship of Lilian Greenwood.

They are: Ronnie Cowan (SNP) – Inverclyde; Steve Double (Con) – St Austen and Newquay; Paul Girvan (DUP) – South Antrim; Huw Merriman (Con) – Bexhill and Battle; Luke Pollard (Lab (Co-Op)) – Plymouth, Sutton and Devenport; Laura Smith (Lab) – Manchester Metropolitan; Iain Stewart (Con) – Milton Keynes South; Graham Stringer (Lab) – Blackley and Broughton; Martin Vickers (Con) – Cleethorpes; and Daniel Zeichner (Lab) – Cambridge.

In the first public evidence session for the Committee, MPs will unpick the thinking behind policy changes by the Department for Transport, including the scrapping of planned electrification on railway lines in Wales, the Midlands and the North of England.

In brief
Alstom Siemens hook-up Following reports in the media, Alstom has confirmed that it is in discussions with Siemens over a potential merger of their rail businesses. A spokesperson said: “Alstom confirms being in discussions with Siemens in connection with a possible combination of Alstom with Siemens Mobility Division. No final decision has been made, discussions are ongoing and no agreement has been reached.”

Ticketing transparency
Trainline has launched a new ticket price predictor that uses billions of data points to predict when Advance train tickets are likely to increase in price over time. Available in the Trainline App, the tool provides a summary of all the opportunities to save money when buying Advance tickets in the months and days leading up to travel, creating more transparency in the system.

Nomad to provide Wi-Fi for CrossCountry
Nomad Digital has signed a new contract with CrossCountry to provide secure, robust free on-board Wi-Fi via its digital train technology. The agreement is for installation on 58 Voyager trains, five HSTs and 29 Turbostar units, beginning this winter. The contract also includes technicians on the ground to provide dedicated engineering maintenance expertise.

Lecturer role at UCL
Graeme Clark, head of business development for Siemens Rail Systems, has been made honorary lecturer at University College London. When the new term begins, he will contribute to lectures and assess coursework for students studying for an MSc Civil Engineering at the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering.

Thameslink control system update
Mott MacDonald has been appointed by Network Rail to support the implementation of the Hitachi Tranista traffic management system on the Thameslink network. Tranista will control the running of the railway in real time, and support the recovery of operations in the event of delays or disruption. Mott MacDonald is to assess how to integrate the Tranista system into existing operational centres, and advise on the changes to operational roles, processes and decision-making that this will require.

A Great Northern first
In a UK first, Great Northern has fitted vibration sensors to wheel bearings and gearboxes across its entire fleet of 40 Class 365 trains that run between Cambridge, Peterborough and London King’s Cross. The system, designed by Perpetuum, provides real-time ‘inflight’ monitoring and diagnostics, and warns engineers by email at their Hornsey depot when parts are developing a problem.

New £7.9m innovation fund
A further £7.9m has been announced for the next round of the Accelerating Innovation in Rail scheme, run by the DfT and Innovate UK. The competition is open to companies of all sizes across the UK. All entries must be collaborative, involving at least two different organisations and at least one SME. Entries are open from 18 Sept to 15 Nov 2017. The aim of this competition is to create innovations that address the main goals identified in the industry’s ‘Rail Technical Strategy Capability Delivery Plan’ 2017, which are: minimal disruption to train services, and intelligent trains. See: apply-forinnovation-funding.service.gov.uk/competition/61/overview