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Network Rail Invests in People Counting Technology

Posted by Natasha Gingles on Jul 31, 2014 4:28:00 PM

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Britain’s largest train stations are increasingly popular destinations for retail, food and drink – in addition to those traveling by rail. That’s what the data from more than 1,700 discreet infrared sensors deployed throughout Network Rail’s largest train stations uncovered in its effort to discover not just how many people use its stations – but actually how they use them as part of its goal to improve passenger perception.

Network Rail, which owns and operates Britain’s rail infrastructure, has undertaken the aggressive project in collaboration with PFM Footfall Intelligence to raise customer service standards – as well as the standards of its people, processes and facilities – at its Managed Station concepts. These large complex stations are usually situated in the hearts of city centers and often are of historical, architectural and engineering significance.

Irisys’ infrared sensors have been integrated into station access points, platforms, retail outlets, washrooms, left luggage and other areas. The sensors discreetly detect individuals by their body heat – so personal identities and privacy are not compromised – in an effort to gain unique insights into a particular station and across the Network Rail estate. Data collected by the sensors is passed into PFM’s database management tool, which reports crucial information to key station personnel throughout the day via a near real-time dashboard.

The joint solution gives rich insight into how many customers use Network Rail’s stations – and in what capacity they use them. A recent analysis, for example, found tens of millions of people visit the stations each year to shop, eat and drink – in addition to those who travel by rail.

The finding validated National Rail’s strategy of adding “must-visit” retail destinations across its portfolio of stations to improve the customer experience and open up additional lines of revenue. All profits from Network Rail’s commercial activity are re-invested in the railway to help build a safer, more reliable and growing network for its passengers and freight users.

The intelligent system can also uncover other customer-centered information like traffic patterns that are unique to specific times of day and days of the week; which spaces and facilities, like washrooms, are utilized the most and the least; and shopping-traffic patterns.

That data can be leveraged to make a number of strategic improvements – including customer flow throughout a station; spatial optimization; or even the strategic adjustment of advertising rates in high-traffic areas. And with passenger numbers expected to double over the next 15 years, it is increasing critical to understand the customer journey through the rail network and interaction with the facilities provided in stations.

PFM has a track record of delivering customer-focused solutions within complex environments such as that of Network Rail,” says David Sturdy, managing director of PFM Footfall Intelligence. “Our wealth of experience in managing and translating data into accurate, meaningful information has always been a central emphasis of our work, helping to deliver enhanced customer experiences.”

“Network Rail has consistently high levels of service and ambitious plans for the future,” says Nick Stogdale, division director of detector products for Irisys. “We hope the integration of our infrared technology will help Network Rail’s continuing success story as part of its important contribution to an innovative transportation strategy.”

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