Travel management platform experts, You. Smart. Thing., are producing a first-of-a-kind, data-led decision-making tool that more accurately predicts the impact of large visitor events on local and wider rail services. To do this, they have partnered with rail operators, local government, and sports management companies.
Issues often arise when popular events, such as sports fixtures, create extreme demand peaks within the railway network. Long lead-in times are often in place for some of these substantial events, due to ticketing and organisation requirements, meaning dates are often set months ahead. But planning for the impact on scheduled rail services is often still very difficult.
It can be extremely complicated to accurately predict the demand for train assets at different times from different routes, leading operators to rely heavily on estimates. This is due to the lack of advanced data about customer travel plans.
Intelligent rail service demand forecasting for event-based travel: EventGo
The EventGo project utilises the Travel Assistant journey planning tool to create a more accurate picture of multimodal transport demand in and around the areas of large live events.
The Travel Assistant integrates into relevant smartphone apps and websites, specifically those linked to the live event, to offer pre-configured transport routes and live travel updates for visitors. This information helps monitor people flow, prevent overcrowding, and provides valuable data on attendees, their timing and origin.
Armed with this information, rail operators can then make strategic adjustments to capacity and scheduling of train services around the event. This improves the reliability, cost efficiencies and customer experience associated with the plans.
Having this improved efficiency of planning and asset use also presents an environmental opportunity. Understanding specific timing and capacity demands allows for the most appropriate use of train assets, minimising unnecessary journeys, space and the carbon footprint of event goers by optimising their journey options. It also allows for more sustainable transport assets to be used more effectively.
The project scope
The project is headed up by You. Smart. Thing., and also includes Northern Trains as a demonstration partner. Project management is from In The Round, and insight and data from Leeds Rhinos Rugby Club and Leeds City Council, among others.
Under the project, planning teams within the train operator used the system to predict the impact of a series of sporting events on scheduled rail services in the area. Testing occurred across the Yorkshire region between January and March 2023, focusing on sports fixtures at the Headingley Stadium in Leeds.
Using these live events as a basis, key data, insights and optimised processes were developed that demonstrated the accuracy, useability and, ultimately, the business value of the Travel Assistant solution. Live itinerary, communications and engagement with visitors to the events were also used to increase the visibility and customer awareness of the technology. As well as to support necessary product approval regulatory procedures.
A real step forward
Speaking on the project, Andrew Steele, Chief Operating Officer at You. Smart. Thing., said:
Being able to demonstrate the effectiveness of the software through this funding initiative has been a real step forward for our work, and having the backing of Innovate UK and the Department for Transport has proved highly beneficial for broadening our connections and involvement in the rail sector. Following this successful testing, we now look forward to being able to expand the data solution beyond the test environment across a range of events and demand peaks for the UK rail industry.
What happened next
Since the completion of the project, the EventGo concept has continued to be developed further, with continuous improvements being made to the travel demand management dashboard.
The project success, coupled with these developments, has since led to a range of new deployments for the concept, including with:
- the Royal Shakespeare Company
- Warwickshire County Council
- Cumbria Tourism
- Visit Cornwall
- Transport for Greater Manchester
About the funding
The project forms part of the FOAK demonstrator initiative. FOAK aims to accelerate innovation in the UK rail sector and enable new technology to be readily and efficiently integrated into the railway system. This project was successful under the ‘cost efficiency and performance priorities for a reliable railway’ funding theme.
The FOAK initiative is intended to support innovation solutions at high technology readiness levels on their route to market and deliver scalable rail solutions that lead to deployment and real-world demonstrations. FOAK is a Small Business Research Initiative competition funded by the Department for Transport (DfT).
FOAK is funded by DfT and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. As part of the FOAK 2022 initiative, over £6 million was allocated to 24 projects from across the UK. This helped to deliver demonstrations and feasibility studies to tackle key challenges within the sector.
This project is just one example of how Innovate UK and its partners are investing to realise the vision for rail in the Transport Vision 2050 strategy document. The strategy document sets out what the UK transport system may look like in 2050, and outlines the likely steps along the way to achieving this. Innovate UK and its partners are currently investing around £700 million in the current three-year spending review period in transport programmes covering the pathways set out in the Transport Vision document.
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