Improving information for passengers and operators

Omada Rail Systems is introducing innovative and world-leading technology into Australia, providing solutions for both rail operators and passengers.

Unexpected delays or cancellations of trains cause issues for both operators and passengers alike. For passengers, it is common to see reasons such as ‘signalling fault’ or ‘police incident’. This provides very little insight as to the cause of the issue and can cause frustration among passengers both on, and waiting for, trains. For operators, delays can result in complaints, missed KPIs or fines. Furthermore, the operator has to identify and potentially resolve the issue that is causing the delay.

Omada Rail Systems specialises in signalling and telecommunications services, and also has the capability to implement solutions to improve the experience of passengers and operators during delays. Utilising their industry contacts and reputation for quality, the Omada team is excited to introduce these innovations into Australia.

Real-time passenger information system
Omada has partnered with Ketech, a company based in the UK which has specialised in Real Time Information systems for over 20 years. Ketech’s cloud-based Passenger Information System aggregates real-time data and delivers live updates to passengers via on-train displays every few seconds, displaying dynamic journey information, journey progress, and more. This real-time information can be sent directly to display and via PA-announcements to specific fleets to update passengers affected on delays, the cause, and new ETAs. In the UK, this has been shown to significantly improve customer satisfaction during delays as customers feel more at ease knowing they are being provided with accurate and timely updates. Two of the biggest factors that determine operator customer satisfaction ratings are the way an operator handles delays, and the reliability of their trains. Ketech’s Passenger Information system is modular and can be fitted into new or existing third party or legacy systems.

With systems integration and telecommunications expertise, Omada Rail Systems has the capabilities to effectively assist in the implementation of these products across Australia, lifting communication and customer experience to the next level.

Identify and resolve
Beyond ensuring that customers remain safe and satisfied, operators face a plethora of challenges including that of presenting a convincing business case for new technical solutions to address issues, and obtain management support.

This stems from a problem often identified as most pressing amongst operators, which is managing maintenance and operational costs. Reducing costs can be achieved through several means, including introducing more efficient processes. Omada Rail Systems is introducing technology that assists in creating a more efficient process of locating, accessing, and utilising data to identify when maintenance is required. Through their partnership with Gioconda Rail, Omada has the capability to introduce a globally recognised technology into Australia.

Centralised asset information
Gioconda Rail is a global leader in asset mapping, signal sighting, driver briefing, and 3D modelling services, delivering bespoke software that allows operators to access survey information on assets in existing & proposed locations. On-site photographs or other documents can be linked to these locations, allowing operators to locate an asset within the HD video, and have files such as pictures, relevant documents, drawings, sighting forms, etc, available instantly and in one place. Having all of this information readily available in one location makes this process much more efficient. Google Maps is able to flag each individual asset, allowing identification of various asset types and nearby access points.

Screen capture of 3D rendering of Mernda station for desktop-based signal sighting assessment.

This is achieved through a process of filming the network in 4K resolution, associating GPS data and known locations to specific frames, asset mapping the railway and identifying more than 70 different types of assets. This data can be output in Excel, CAD, JPEG, and google maps. While technology similar to this does exist in Australia, Gioconda’s system goes further to improve the interface usability and reusability of information for the client. Data reusability is a key element to Gioconda’s ability to provide a number of services from just one data collection run.

Having completed work on several recent projects in Melbourne and Sydney, Gioconda is experienced in the Australian market. Projects include examples of driver briefing programs, in both HD and virtual reality, and desktop signal sighting services.

For more information on Omada’s capability in delivering these solutions Australia wide, head to their website at Omadarail.com.

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Real time data assisting social distancing

To enable commuters to continue travelling safely and to protect the health of staff, Auckland Transport (AT) has updated the AT Mobile app to allow train passengers to see if physical distancing will be possible before they board the train.

The app displays a live occupancy status, whether the train is likely empty, likely space available, likely near the limit of safe distancing, and likely not accepting passengers. The live data is drawn from tap on and off points, where travellers have used their AT HOP cards.

Across the AT network, 15,000 trips are being made per day, despite the New Zealand government’s Level 4 restrictions. These journeys are being made by essential workers, those needing to travel for medical reasons, or to access essential services.

According to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, the solution was developed in a rapid time frame.

“It enables AT to ensure that it meets the rule of trains as well of buses running at no more than 20 per cent capacity to ensure passengers can maintain 2 metres of separation. This allows passengers travelling to essential work or to access essential services to know that they will be safe using public transport,” he said.

Once the lockdown period is over, users will continue to have access to the service, to avoid crowding and provide better customer information.

The service was previously available on buses, and was rolled out to trains this week, noted AT chief executive Shane Ellison.

“Those who are travelling on trains for essential trips are now able to make an informed decision about which service to take for their health and safety. I’m very proud of the team for making this update happen so quickly.”

Other updates are providing clearer information on updates to the transport network.

In Australia, while Transport for NSW (TfNSW) is not currently considering using real time data to assist passengers with social distancing, there are other ways for passengers to learn about train occupancy levels.

“TfNSW already provides passenger load data for bus and train services to apps such as TripView and NextThere which can assist customers with selecting the most suitable service to board,” said a TfNSW spokesperson.

Although patronage dropped by 75 to 85 per cent in the four weeks to March 31 across all modes in NSW, services are continuing to be maintained.

“TfNSW understands the important role public transport plays in the daily lives of commuters, especially in the regions, and there are currently no plans to reduce services of trains, buses and ferries across the vast network,” said the spokesperson.

“By maintaining the existing level of service on the NSW public transport network, customers are able to better practice social distancing when using the network for essential travel.”

Learn how you can maximise your existing investments in track maintenance by consolidating data silos

While rail and transit organisations are great at collecting various forms of data, they typically struggle to effectively analyse it in order to inform decision making. With the ongoing digital transformation, the increasing volume and speed at which data can be collected, and therefore needs to be consumed, is becoming a significant problem for track maintenance teams.

Compounding this is the likelihood that data is coming from multiple hardware suppliers, each providing their own independent software solution for its analysis, resulting in the creation of data silos across the organisation. What is needed is a solution that is hardware-neutral. A system that provides the ability to consolidate and manage all third-party information, thereby providing easy access to data it can trust as the basis of all types of analysis, including for example linear analytics related to track maintenance.

The data silo obstacles for rail and transit

With data coming from multiple sources and in many formats, the variety of this information often exceeds the understanding of a single person. Different teams will likely use a range of isolated datasets to perform specific activities across a network, and different team members will typically use and understand the different types of data in a number of ways, so the system should allow for the seamless sharing of datasets between the business units involved. In a world where so-called ‘Big Data’ is increasingly the basis for critical decisions within an organisation, any solution they deploy needs to address four substantial obstacles of these ‘Linear Data’ silos.

Watch the on-demand Tech Talk: The Benefits of Consolidating Data Silos.