Real-time train occupancy tool tested in South West England

South Western Railway is using cameras and AI technology to continually count the number of passengers on board of train carriages. The UK operator plans to make the data available to customers in real-time via the SWR app and website. The feature will enable passengers to maintain social distancing and deter overcrowding.

South Western Railway (SWR) customers could soon be able to see how busy individual train carriages are in real-time following the trial of a new system that uses AI to provide capacity information. The system uses onboard CCTV cameras to count the number of passengers in each train carriage in real-time. According to the company, anonymity of the system, currently in trial-mode, is ensured.

SWR intends to make the data immediately available to passengers via the SWR app and website, allowing them to make a decision when to take the train even before they arrive at the station. The trial comes at a time when travel restrictions in the UK ease and the railway maximises its efforts to get people back in the train. SWR hopes the new technology will help customers to maintain social distancing and avoid overcrowding.

Control room

“In addition to helping maintain social distancing, and improving customer comfort and convenience, we hope to use this enhanced information to inform decision making in our control room”, says South Western Railway’s Commercial Director Peter Williams. “This would further improve the punctuality and reliability of our services.”

The enhanced information is the result of a collaboration between SWR, AI technology company PoS Insights, and on-board Wi-Fi provider Icomera. The innovative system connects to existing CCTV cameras to capture, analyse and report occupancy data in real time in the form of a RAG status.

Desiro trains

The system is currently being trialled behind the scenes on SWR’s Desiro fleet, travelling from London to Basingstoke, Portsmouth, Southampton and Weymouth. SWR plans to make it customer facing and roll it out across their Class 444 and 450 fleets as soon as possible, and ultimately network-wide, if the pilot is successful.

John Price, CEO of PoS Insights said: “With our technology already in use across many of the UK’s railway stations, working with SWR and Icomera to bring the technology on-board trains is not only an industry first, but also a significant milestone for improving customer experience and further enhancing the rail network”.

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Author: Esther Geerts

Editor of RailTech.com

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