Passenger Rail, Technology and IT

Real time interchange data displayed during Sydney Harbour Bridge shutdown

During the 10-day Sydney Harbour Bridge shutdown in January, screens displaying real-time interchange information guided commuters arriving at Wynyard and North Sydney stations.

While the rail deck was being replaced on the Harbour Bridge approaches, passengers were diverted to other transport modes to complete their trip across Sydney Harbour.

“The ten-day Sydney Harbour Bridge deck upgrade was not just an engineering and planning project, but also an opportunity for Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW to trial innovative ways to display multimodal journey information for customers for the first time,” a Sydney Trains spokesperson said.

“This included displaying alternative bus and ferry services in the North Sydney and Wynyard area to provide customers with more flexibility and choice to complete their journey.

This trial was developed and implemented in a short time frame and built upon an existing product,” the spokesperson said.

Having worked with Sydney Trains in the past, the rail agency engaged locally-based information technology systems integrator tm stagetec systems (TMS) for assistance. TMS proposed the new Smart pi EYE software and associated hardware as a method to present real-time departure information of multiple modes. Being template-based and customisable for the task’s particular requirements, Smart pi EYE could be up and running in a short time period.

The screens included real-time arrival information for rail replacement buses, suburban buses, and ferries as well as scheduled departure times for rail replacement buses

According to TMS general manager Mark Lownds, the advantage of Smart pi EYE is its adaptability, which led to the displays being rolled out in less than three weeks.

“We’re using General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) standards-based feeds, which means that we can ingest all this data and Smart pi EYE is a template-based system, so we can build templates to the customer’s specifications and then have them run on the system.”

Collaborating with open data teams from Transport for NSW, TMS was able to collate and ingest six different data feeds.

TMS also ensured that the screens and servers were installed at the stations and conducted testing and commissioning alongside Sydney Trains.

The screens displayed real-time information on buses, ferries, and train replacement buses.

The final outcome involved four 80-inch screens, two at North Sydney and two at Wynyard with lists of arriving services updated every five seconds. The system was calibrated with the passenger in mind by, for example, only showing ferry services leaving Barangaroo that were reachable within the 10-minute walking time from Wynyard.

Being template-based, the system has the capability to show wayfinding information for future deployments, if required.

With trusted, accurate and real time data such as this on display, customers can make more choices about how their journey will continue, said Lownds.

“For passengers, this information really helps them through their journey. If you’re at an interchange site, why can’t you see what buses are running late? Do you have time to run over to the post office, or get a drink or a coffee, or do you have to walk fast and get there straight away?”

Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW are evaluating the outcome of the trial.

“We are always looking to improve the journey experience of our customers and information available to them and will review the feedback from customers and staff to identify any future role for multimodal information screens at selected stations and transport hubs,” said the Sydney Trains spokesperson.