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Greater sharing of train data will help mobility developers

Using a travel app on a smartphone in a train station

Mobility as a service (MaaS) developers have received a major boost after train companies agreed to publish more real-time information.

The move will enable tech firms to develop intelligent travel apps under the new plans announced by the rail minister Jo Johnson and Rail Delivery Group chief executive, Paul Plummer.

The aim is for closer working between rail and tech firms to bring about more seamless, hassle-free journeys, and better information for passengers on services and delays, as well as seats and on-board facilities, like toilets and refreshments.

Better use of data could also allow rail companies to plan more effectively and to predict and fix issues before they arise, creating a more reliable railway.

Johnson said: “This will speed the development of travel apps that provide passengers with helpful information about their journeys.

The Government and the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, have published the Joint Rail Data Action Plan, which sets out the obligations and deadlines for delivering on these ambitions, overseen by an industry-led taskforce.

Plummer said: “Technology gave rise to the railway, connecting Britain, and the rail industry wants to channel this spirit to help produce cutting-edge products and services that can be exported around the world.

“Digital technology in rail already means more timely information and less time spent waiting, helping to put customers in charge, and as part of the rail industry’s plan to change and improve we want to use technology to give customers more and more control.”

Building on data that the industry has already made available, data will be released over the coming months to provide more consistent and timely information about train services, delays and disruption.

Information will also be made available on the carriages that make up each train, enabling operators to more accurately communicate on board facilities, and to help passengers plan ahead and board in the most convenient place.

The plan will see the rail industry go further than this, by identifying and removing barriers to better information sharing by, for example, improving standardisation of how data is collected, stored and published, and improving clarity over which data is commercially sensitive and what data can be used for what purposes.

The Government and rail industry will also explore what incentives could be introduced to drive further innovation and data sharing, on top of that already planned.

Earlier this year, MPs on the Transport Select Committee were told that the Government must show political leadership when it comes to the availability of data if new mobility services are to succeed in the UK. This latest development will be seen as a sign that Government is listening.  

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