Guest Post: The future of rail

Guest Post: The future of rail

By Cameron Jones, chief commercial officer at SilverRail Technologies

Since 1995, the UK has had the fastest growing rail network in Europe and has invested, and continues to invest, more than any other country in Europe in its rail infrastructure, close to £4.5 billion. This investment and growth has not, yet, materialised in a step change in customer experience of rail, or indeed in how the press reports on it.

However, it seems the times are now starting to change and we are finally beginning to see vital, innovative fixes to some of the most damaging customer experience issues, fixes which are set to transform the future of rail. So what are these innovations and just how will they transform the image of rail across the UK?

Top 4 innovations that will transform the image of UK rail

1. E-ticketing

Paper tickets are reaching the end of their shelf life. Imagine how strange it would be using a paper ticket on your next flight. Recent announcements suggest that as soon as 2017 the rail industry could be paperless.

This move to electronic ticketing means there is much more capability for technological advancements in terms of making bookings, changing tickets and travelling seamlessly.

In fact, a MultiPass solution is already being trialled on the Cambridge-London route in the form of account-based ticketing.

This advancement means that journeys are captured by the customer’s MultiPass app and e-wallet, synchronising with the cloud to calculate the best priced ticket.

2. Connectivity everywhere

Wi-Fi is a high priority area – I have yet to see an industry presentation that does not highlight Wi-Fi as a valuable investment area. But this is not the only area in which technology can improve the customer experience during a train journey.

Location based technologies like ibeacons on trains, GPS enabled mobile phones providing community data and real time CCTV data analysis introduces the capability to identify when customers board and depart trains help reduce overcrowding in carriages, and inform customers where best to choose a seat.

3. Infrastructure

We are also seeing wide scale investment commitments across the UK. The highly publicised HS2 and Crossrail projects are the largest government investments in the UK, but we are also seeing station updates, namely Birmingham New Street and London Bridge, which alone sees 54 million passengers annually.

New station builds, electrification of lines and new digital signalling will all help to bring rail up to the standards that we expect.

4. New ticket vending machines

We are seeing the development of new ticket vending machines that, at the heart of their functionality, address the user experience head on. Developed by Parkeon, and being trialled at Harrogate Station for Northern Rail, these modern day machines implement innovative new technology.

For instance, the screen height adjusts automatically to the user’s eye height, enhancing ease of use, and these digital screens have the capability to show news, weather, maps, train information and advertising – all designed to make a customer’s journey easier and smoother.

It is encouraging to see the industry take on developments such as these, and recognise how vital the customer experience is to the future growth of rail across the UK.

Last July SilverRail attended the Rail Executive Industry Day and unveiled a video we produced in tandem with them, showcasing rail. It was well received and demonstrated a clear appetite to champion innovation and change.

The innovations above are just the tip of the iceberg, but they show just what can be achieved, and highlight how much can be done when the industry collaborates on common challenges. Exciting times ahead…

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