Train operator Merseyrail is trialling a new digital passenger information system that provides station staff and passengers with information on problems and delays much more quickly. Tony McDonough reports
Merseyrail is to trial new digital passenger information system that it hopes will offer its staff based in stations and on platforms immediate updates on delays and problems.
IRIS is a piece of technology developed by scientists at Liverpool John Moores University. It will see platform staff provided with hand-held devices that pick up alerts directly from a range of rail data sources.
It is now being trialled on Merseyrail’s Northern Line between Liverpool Central and Liverpool South Parkway stations. IRIS provide staff with a two-way communication channel, which harvests information from different sources into one single view.
It means they will be able to relay information about delays caused by things such as flooding, a blocked line or broken-down trains much more quickly. The technology will serve not only Merseyrail passengers but also those travelling on national services from the city-south hub.
Merseyrail says it hope the new system will make its its staff and customers “the best informed in the country”.
Professor Thanh Nguyen, a computer scientist and lead researcher of the project, said: “There is a lot of information out there, the key is putting it at the fingertips of staff so they can quickly understand a situation – say a delay – and provide more useful answers to passenger queries.
“Our system uses intelligent algorithms to interpret the information and translate it into simple but tailored messages. The result is that rail staff can inform passengers of information which is more specific to their particular journey in a much faster way.”
The LJMU experts say the system will make information flow much more resilient in challenging times, for instance, when there is a major incident or flooding on the line.
Zoe Hands, chief operating officer at Merseyrail, added: “This new technology will enhance our passengers’ experience in terms of the information we can provide to them quickly and efficiently, which is something we know is extremely important to Merseyrail passengers.
“Upon completion of this trial we will review the results and its effectiveness and decide upon our next steps”
The IRIS Project is funded by the Department for Transport through the First of a Kind Round 2020 competition, delivered by InnovateUK, a government-funded body to support business through research.