National Rail Enquiries (NRE), the organisation tasked with providing up-to-date information on the UK’s rail network, is set to link all the train station screens in the UK to one single information feed as part of a bid to provide a more consistent experience for rail passengers across the country.
Rail passengers today can see contrasting information on train station screens and the National Rail Enquiries mobile phone app/website.
NRE CEO Chris Scoggins told Techworld that this is because screens installed at 2,100 stations in the UK get their data from different sources and algorithms to the mobile app/website.
While the mobile app/website is underpinned by a system called Darwin (also used to support NRE’s Journey Planner) the screens in train stations draw on as many as 40 different systems, each with different data sources and algorithms.
In order to address this issue, NRE is transferring the screens at 2,100 stations across the UK onto the Darwin feed as part of a £9 million project that falls under the Department of Transport’s £150 million National Stations Improvement programme.
"What we’re doing is replacing their existing information feeds with one consistent national feed," said Scoggins.
The rollout will start in the summer and complete by Easter 2015.
“It’s a big project,” said Scoggins. “It’s taking a whole step into the actual operational railway. Some people see websites as slightly detached from the operational railway but of course this is actually on the station platform in full view of everybody.”
The project, dubbed Darwin CIS (Customer Information Screens), is being overseen by a number of outsourcing partners and just four staff at NRE. The outsourcing partners include the suppliers of the systems that power the screens and include firms such as Siemens and Ketech, as well as Darwin supplier, Thales.
Although the project isn’t due to get properly underway until the summer, up to 100 stations on the Chiltern Line and West Coast Mainline have already been connected to the Darwin system on a trial basis.
“They’ve benefited from a very basic introduction of Darwin feed and will benefit further when we move to the fully fledged service,” said Scoggins.