Digital pioneers scoop £25,000 investment to improve data quality on rail disruption

Better information for rail customers during disruption to services is on track after a contest to create hi-tech improvements.

More than 120 digital developers were challenged to come up with ideas and build working digital prototypes that will benefit the rail industry and its customers, whilst travelling on trains across Britain for three days.

The HackTrain event brought the rail industry and technology community together in a unique collaboration to stimulate innovation.

Ideas hatched during the ‘hackathon’, which was supported by the Department for Transport and sponsored by the rail industry and other partners, ranged from disruption management tools to a taxi-sharing app and a system for giving disabled passengers advance notice of which platform to go to.

Ten of the top teams presented their ideas at a post-hackathon event to a panel of judges including Jacqueline Starr, Managing Director of Customer Experience, Rail Delivery Group, along with senior representatives from Chiltern Railways, GWR, South West Trains and Virgin Trains East Coast.

  • Winner: Disruption Feed demonstrated how existing information about disruption could be restructured to make it machine readable and analysable. Applying their proposed structure to industry disruption information enables developers to build better tools for customers to negotiate disruption. Disruption Feed won £25,000 investment in their start-up company through the HackTrain Accelerator Programme, which kicks off in the New Year.
  • Runner-up: Trainilicious used data from CCTV on trains to count passengers in carriages combined with face and body recognition software to produce an app that would let train operators and customers see where seats are available in real time.
  • Third place: Ticket produced an app designed to help customers understand which trains they can travel on with their ticket. By scanning the orange train ticket or QR code, the app calls an online journey planner to identify all train services for which the ticket is valid.

Jacqueline Starr said:

“It was great to see so many brilliant ideas. A big thank you to all the teams who took part.

“Customers are at the heart of everything we do to make rail services better. We must think of our customers first as we harness technology and drive innovation to improve people’s train journeys.”

Rail Minister Claire Perry said:

“I am delighted with the enthusiasm and focus with which the participants and the rail industry have approached this Hackathon. It is vital that we all, government, the rail industry and innovators, continue to explore fresh approaches to problems faced by the increasing demand on our railways.

“We all share the same ambition of continuing to improve journeys for passengers on our thriving rail network, and I welcome all the hard work and effort shown throughout the event. I look forward to seeing how their ideas will continue to develop into solutions we can implement.”

More information about HackTrain including sponsors and partners can be found here.


Notes to editors

Details of the entries are as follows:

Place Team Name Theme Summary
1st Disruption Feed Disruption Information This solution is simply about restructuring the form used to input contextual disruption information into industry data (i.e. Darwin). Using prescribed selection criteria taken from established industry data standards, rather than a free text comments box, it creates quality data output that can be machine processed and analysed rather than a block of free-text content about a disruption that can’t be analysed (as it is now).

This solution also includes a basic prototype visualisation tool (route map) that displays the locations affected by disruption based on the output from the data produced using the new form. Whilst the map was not aesthetically strong, the underlying technical solution to link the data feed into the visual output was fully functional.
2nd Trainilicious Passenger Loading This solution used a feed from the existing on-train CCTV to count passengers in carriages in real-time. The team deployed face and body recognition software in conjunction with the CCTV feed and used the data output to provide the information through a customer app.

The forward solution proposed an API to allow the data output to feed into industry information systems such as Darwin.
3rd Ticket Ticket Validity This prototype is a solution for helping customers understand which trains they can travel on with their ticket. Customer’s use the app to scan their orange train ticket or QR code. The app uses character recognition to identify the characteristics of the ticket (from, to, validity, type etc.) It then calls the real time journey planner API to identify all upcoming train services that the ticket is valid for. The app also included supplementary contextual information about the customer’s journey.


Team Name Theme Summary
Goodthings (come to those who wait) Passenger Loading App to influence the behaviour of customers by incentivising to take a different (less crowded) train. Free coffee anyone?
Traxi Social – Taxi Sharing Integrated taxi sharing - connecting customers on board a train, with others who want to share a taxi to the same/similar destination
Plan-A-Roo Dynamic Rerouting Dynamic rerouting in the event of disruption
Bubble Social / Comms Tool for staff to staff, passenger to staff and passenger to passenger comms. Closed tool that works off-line using the existing on-train infrastructure.
Ugo Ticket Validity Hardware and software solution for stations. Customers scan tickets using a reader in the digital box. Information about that ticket comes up on the screen. Supplementary informant about the station and how to find the train is also displayed.
WaveRoll Passenger Loading / Passenger Data Collection Using ibeacons to count number of mobile signals in a carriage to give a real-time loading value for each carriage. Offering customers free wifi monetised through advertising, collecting passenger data as an additional benefit.
RICCS Disruption Support Tool Control room decision support tool for analysis of disruption and fastest route to restoring service.
Journey Ticket Choices Tool for enabling customers to determine the ticket selection based on time vs price, rather than only fastest / most direct.
Rail Assist Passenger Assist API linked to the ‘Disabled Passengers’ database that provides early notification of platform numbers to disabled people and connects assisted travellers with staff on the station.
Chat Point Social Tool for socialising on train travel, chatting to other people on the train and making connections.
Off the Rail Dynamic Rerouting Dynamic rerouting in the event of disruption
Train Guard Disruption Alerting Tool for telling customers about issues that might affect your journey before you travel - like sports events or a concert.


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