‘Data to Improve Customer Experience’ competition: winners announced

Following the RRUKA / ATOC ‘Data to Improve Customer Experience’ competition launched in March 2015, four academic research projects have been jointly awarded funding.

The projects will investigate novel ideas on how to make best use of current data to improve the customer experience and make rail customers’ preferred form of transport for reliability, ease-of-use and value..

A high number of good quality proposals were received from a number of universities across the UK. The final funding decision was made by a panel of key industry experts, which included representatives from the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and RSSB, as well as a number of academics.

Further information on the initiative and the projects funded are available via SPARK.

If you are interested in viewing the recording of the competition launch workshop, this is available via the webinar platform: http://live.wavecast.co/data-to-improve-the-customer-experience/programme/.


The four projects set to receive funding are:


  • Development of Intelligent Predictive Models for Crowding on Trains using data-driven methodologies (University of Kent)

The project will develop accurate and practical prediction models for rail crowing using an intelligent data-driven modelling method.  The obtained crowding models can be merged into the existing software tool Online Journey Planner (OJP), developed by ATOC, to provide customers with detailed crowd prediction in advance of travel to help customers’ decision making in journey planning. The developed models and the modelling framework can also be employed by the real-time prediction engine ‘Darwin’ to provide customers with real-time and dynamic predictions during a journey.


  • Integrating data sources to enhance the experience for passengers with special needs and/or disabilities through privacy aware mobile applications (University of Surrey, University of Southampton, Loughborough University)


The project brings together a range of expertise, including computer science, security and tourism specialists (University of Surrey), transport specialists (University of Southampton) and user-­centred design experts (Loughborough University). This project investigates how existing and new rail data sources can be used to enhance the passenger experience and to provide assistance to passengers with special needs and/or disabilities, for example those with limited mobility or vision impairment, particularly when unplanned disruption occurs. Technical prototypes will be created that demonstrate how relevant transport data can be integrated to meet the needs of customers, how the location of passengers can be determined and used to provide benefit to them, and how security and privacy of personal data can be maintained. The technical capabilities demonstrated will be used to create a customer walkthrough that shows how existing data can provide benefit, how other data sources can be integrated to further improve the customer experience, and also how future services might develop.



  • Use of passenger loading data to influence behaviour and provide an improved experience for passengers and operators alike (University of Southampton)

The main aims of this project are to prove that it is feasible to mitigate crowding by improving information provision and influencing passenger choice, and to understand how such information should best be presented. Crowded trains can adversely affect the experience of rail passengers. They can also cause practical issues for train operators, especially if slow boarding and alighting at stations makes it hard to maintain tight dwell times. It is thought that some of these issues can be mitigated by providing better information to passengers and encouraging them to make different travel choices as a result. If passengers can be encouraged to travel on alternative, more lightly loaded, services this will also help to mitigate some of the problems.



  • “Shortly arriving at…” Development of an innovative framework for customer-centric rail passenger information applications (Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Edinburgh, University of Manchester)  

This project seeks to enable a transformation of the customer experience through information that is context-centric rather than data-centric as is currently offered by most software applications, such as those available on smartphones. The project is led by academics expert in ‘ontologies’ – a new approach in computer science – that is the core of this research, supported by experienced digital developers. The project also involves industry experts from Abellio and Transport for Greater Manchester.  The project will enable the foundations of an entirely new approach to building software applications that support customer needs rather than being driven by the data available.

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