According to government figures, the nation’s railways are on their knees as Covid-wary commuters shun their old routines. TravelSpace, an innovative new app, aims to restore confidence in the sector. One of the projects to benefit from the UKRI innovation fund, TravelSpace is designed to help operators overcome the risks and anxieties that will keep passengers away from trains, and will mean the railway sector can start encouraging people back onto the railways with confidence.
The new app uses up-to-date passenger loading data to help passengers find the least packed service for their chosen journey, even on commuter trains. TravelSpace will help rail operators actively manage passenger numbers, making it easier for passengers and railway staff to comply with social distancing guidelines. The app allows train operators to control passenger capacity and reduce the risk of passenger conflict. Richard Fisher, Managing Director at Ten Transport Consultancy, one of the companies behind the app, explained: ‘Everyone wants the freedom and convenience of train travel, whether for business or leisure, but we recognise that travel anxiety will be a new, and very real phenomenon for many. TravelSpace works by giving passengers the information the need to make the right travel choices for them. App users will see how much space is available, as well as the usual timetable and service information, making train travel easy, convenient and safe – just as it should be.’ The impact of Covid-19 on the railway during the first lockdown saw rail demand decrease to just four per cent of its 2019 equivalent, peaking at only around 40 per cent by late August 2020. This put an unsustainable financial strain on rail companies and has a long term environmental and economic impact on communities.
Recent research by Transport Focus, the government’s transport watchdog, shows that passengers would feel more confident in taking the train if there was better demand management. The TravelSpace app, which is actively seeking a beta-test partner for live testing, will also incentivise customers with a range of loyalty rewards, driving business for local retailers in and around stations. In a time where confidence is rail travel is at a historic low, TravelSpace is set to help the industry benefit from better covid compliance, fewer crowds and a better understanding of how passengers travel habits are evolving as the country recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.