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Northern Rail will trial tech to tackle overcrowding

Troubled operator Northern Rail will attempt to improve services by using technology as it is brought under government control

Northern Rail will be resorting to technology to solve some of its many issues as the troubled rail operator is brought under government control.

The firm’s franchise will be stripped from Arriva Rail North from 1 March 2020 following an extended period of disruption around service punctuality and reliability, as well as declining levels of service.

In a statement to Parliament, transport secretary Grant Shapps said passengers “have lost trust in the north’s rail network” and that under the new setup, to be managed at arm’s-length by a government-owned company, one of the priorities will be to tackle overcrowding with technology.

“To ensure we are deploying the trains in the right place to meet demand, we will be trialling new technology to identify crowding pinch points,” Shapps said.

According to Shapps, the leaders of the public-sector operator have been asked to prepare a plan in their first 100 days to ensure the government leaves “no stone unturned in improving this franchise for passengers”.

Elsewhere in the rail system, data-driven technology to help tackle the issue of overcrowding – which the government’s Office of Rail and Road considers to be a responsibility of individual train or station operators – has been introduced by other sector players.

To help alleviate the passenger experience in busy trains, transport specialist firm Trainline developed BusyBot last year, a service that crowdsources data from thousands of passengers about how crowded trains are and provides real-time information on seat availability.

According to Trainline, more than 25,000 people interact with the app on a daily basis, sending information to help keep the service updated and inform other passengers where seats are available on public transport.

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