UK rail operator First Group has announced a five-year partnership with IT systems integrator IPL to provide better information to passengers through the use of big data.
First Group operates three rail franchies across the UK - First Great Western, First ScotRail and First TransPennine Express - and carried 330 million passenger in 2013-2014 on its fleet of 1,900 rolling stock vehicles.
Duncan Waugh, head of rail information systems at First Group, told V3 that the train company will work with IPL to use cloud and open source technologies to develop a platform that turns data from rail systems into useful information for travellers.
Waugh explained that First Group's travel monitoring systems contain extensive data that could become customer-facing information.
"We have a huge amount of data in the rail industry, and the question is how we turn that into useful information. We're very data rich but information poor," he said.
"We need to get that information out of the control room and into the customers' hands."
Waugh said this approach will mainly involve improving the way customers are kept informed during service disruptions, including the use of control room data to provide information about how delays can be bypassed.
"If there's any disruption they need to know exactly what that means to them and how they are going to get to their destination," he said.
"It's giving people advanced information about the train service as soon as we know it, especially when it's disrupted."
Waugh added that the partnership with IPL will also develop ways to deliver information to customers in the way they wish to view it.
"One of our problems is keeping up with customer trends. The speed of development in handsets and technology is something we're always going to struggle with," he said, adding that the rail operator also has to cater for the information needs of less tech-savvy travellers.
First Group is not alone in exploring how technology can be put to better use in day-to-day rail operations. Eurostar adopted Box cloud storage recently to improve the way employees collaborate across locations in London, Paris and Brussels.
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