Southeastern, the train company running services into London and the South East, is the first in the UK to share train load data directly with passengers so they can understand carriage capacity before boarding services and social distance more effectively.
The new SeatFinder service updates daily, using train loading information from the previous week. The technology, which is built into many of its carriages, predicts the number of passengers on-board by analysing weight. This means passengers planning journeys on any given week day will see how busy that service was the last time it ran so they can plan journeys with confidence.
Southeastern is the first train operator in the UK to collate its train capacity information in this way and share it directly with passengers. It is also the first train operator in the UK to make this data available through rail industry open data feeds, so that third party developers can access it.
The new service covers 93% of its stations and provides an innovative solution to help passengers make informed decisions about their journey pattern as many will be returning to using travelling on the railway more regularly.
This is particularly critical as schools reopen and commuters return to their offices. From 5th September, Southeastern’s timetable will be back to almost pre Covid-19 levels, with 98% of services running. Seat availability will also be improved, with Southeastern adding an extra 900 carriages and 50,000 seats.
By checking live departure boards on the Southeastern website and at stations, passengers will see red, amber or green indicators showing the level of available capacity on trains. These carriage capacity indicators will be set according to standards ensuring there is sufficient space for passengers to keep 2m or 1m apart whilst on-board.
John Backway, Head of Retail at Southeastern said:
“The next couple of months will see many people returning to the railway network as schools and workplaces try to get back to a new normal. During this period, many of our regular passengers will want to adjust their travel patterns based on government guidance, so we’re pleased to be introducing this new solution to the rail sector that helps address this.
“Our teams at Southeastern have worked extremely hard to make the data available and accessible to help passengers plan their journeys and support social distancing to ensure they can be confident of a safe travel experience.”
The service will be rolled out more widely on Southeastern’s app and journey planner website in September. This will also include data to highlight the type and status of on-board toilet facilities, bringing another new feature that is also industry leading. This will provide passengers with the status of hand washing facilities via Southeastern’s app and announcements at stations.
This will complement the information enhancements Southeastern is making in September on its CIS boards placed around the platforms of stations, which will highlight if toilet facilities or lifts are out of service, so passengers can plan ahead or ask for assistance if required.
Following the successful roll out of SeatFinder for passengers across its network, Southeastern will be looking at how the service can be expanded to involve businesses across its region. For example, shopping destinations such as Ashford Designer Outlet could use the data in widget form to help their visitors access train capacity data while out and about so they can plan how and when they will travel on Southeastern services.