As passengers take tentative steps back onto trains, transport operators are looking at new ways to provide them with real-time information on how to shun crowded platforms and carriages. Transport for London has become the latest organisation to launch such a service. Earlier this week, it reported that it is using depersonalised data from its WiFi network to provide real-time information on how busy London Underground stations are at any particular time of the day.
In the past, TfL has relied on ticketing data to monitor travel patterns. Its estimates of how busy or empty tube stations were had been based largely on historical data from its Oyster smart card and contactless ticketing system which record station entry and exits.
However, the new system enables estimates of overall crowding within a station to take into account how busy platforms and interchange points are. In turn, TfL can pass on the data to passengers via its Go app. This allows travellers wishing to avoid the most crowded stations or platforms to tailor their journeys accordingly. The data feeds are also being made available to third party developers.
On the last day of June, the transport organisation reported that weekday Underground ridership had reached around 45% of pre-pandemic levels, with bus ridership at 60% to 65% of pre-pandemic levels.
Earlier in the year, South Western Railway, which operates one of the busiest UK train networks, announced a similar project. The operator is trialling a new app that will give passengers on its normally packed commuter trains the opportunity to avoid the most crowded carriages.
The app, which has been developed by SWR, Icomera and video analytics company POS Insights, could prove very useful as commuters start returning in greater numbers to services into and out of London Waterloo.
Using on-board CCTV images, analysed by artificial intelligence the app can count the number of people in each carriage. This is then relayed to the travelling public in the form of colour-coded carriage maps – “Red” for little room and “Green” indicating more free space.
South Western Railway say that the app proves successful it will be offered more widely. Initially it will be available on all Desiro trains and then on all services between London, Basingstoke, Portsmouth, Southampton and Weymouth. The train company says that, if it works, the system will be introduced to the company smartphone app and website in coming months for specific routes.
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