Britain’s railway is entering the digital age. Not just for train control systems, signalling and train maintenance, but for passenger information too.
Passengers have smartphones with apps that give details of tickets, train times and the effects of delays. Station concourses and platforms have large displays showing destinations, intermediate calling points, scheduled time, expected time and even which end of the train first class can be found.
Before leaving home or the office, travellers can check their schedules and can update them as they go, even on the trains themselves through on-board Wi-Fi.
So the railway, and its operators, need a simple, comprehensive system for producing and distributing live train information.
Which it does. In fact, it has 66 of them!
All pumping out information with varying degrees of accuracy and interacting in some fashion. A real beggar’s muddle in fact.
But no longer. Now, after years of development, all of the 66 disparate systems are being replaced by one – DARWIN.
Representing a £9 million investment by the National Stations Improvement Programme, Darwin has been rolled out across the country. It will feed information to stations as well as to the operators for their own channels and apps.
This will mean that wherever a passenger seeks information – at the station, online or via a phone app – that information will be the same. Consistent – and accurate.
In times of disruption, a single message will go out, reducing the confusion caused by differing systems and hopefully being more accurate and immediate than any of them.
Commenting on the launch, Jacqueline Starr, managing director for customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), said: “Many rail passengers will be familiar with the panic that sets in when they are waiting for a train and the screen on the station platform tells them one thing but the app on their phone says another.
“Being able to trust the origin of information on the railway is crucial for customers so that they can make the best decisions about their journeys. We know that we haven’t always got it right in the past, but we hope this change will make life that bit easier for our passengers.”