Senior figures responsible for managing healthy and efficient travel for rail passengers took part in a webinar dedicated to managing passenger flow in stations post-lockdown on 20 November. The webinar was produced by the International Railway Summit in association with Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and passenger flow forecasting experts Veovo.
Railway stations are on the front line of the interaction between transport and the public during the pandemic. The webinar tackled the question of how station managers can minimise crowding and reassure the public.
Mr Christian Chavanel, UIC’s Rail System Director, delivered a presentation on the vital role UIC is playing to address the Covid-19 pandemic in the railway sector, notably through the work of the UIC Covid-19 taskforce. Launched in February to provide members and partners with a forum for exchange of best practice and information on management of the crisis, the taskforce comprises 71 UIC members and 18 international organisations. With the help of its members, the taskforce produces Covid-19 guidance documents, shares best practice, and offers support and coordination, notably with regard to economic recovery. UIC has launched a study of the “new normal” in railway transport and what we might expect to see in the railway sector in the medium term (between now and 2025) and long term (between now and 2030). A preliminary draft of this study is due to be released in December.
Ms Jasmin Thurau, Head of Crowd Management at SBB, emphasised the value of passenger frequency data in understanding crowdedness. Such data helps the company to analyse the effectiveness of distancing measures and to inform the public. Ms Thurau explained that Covid-19 had had no impact on long-term station capacity planning, but that short-term flexible and imaginative use of space was important.
Mr Jérôme Berthonneau, Deputy CEO of Keolis Lyon, presented the urban rail perspective. For Mr Berthonneau, predicting and minimising the amount of time passengers spend in stations is key. Keolis Lyon’s philosophy is to not waste space and provide information in as many places as possible, but also trust passengers to use their own judgment. “Encourage rather than enforce social distancing”, he said.
Veovo’s General Manager, Peter Knudsen, walked the audience through how his company’s solutions can smooth the passenger journey. Veovo can gather, use and analyse real-time occupancy, dwell time and density data. With the help of AI and machine learning, it can then predict and plan against crowding. Operators can learn when to expect crowds, and passengers can be informed of where to move to and where to stand.
In response to questions from the global rail-sector audience from 42 countries, the speakers agreed that there are no perfect solutions and that it is important to keep learning.
Managing passenger flow in stations post-lockdown was the third webinar of a four-part series on the power of digital to inspire rail passenger confidence.
Parts 1-3 are now available free of charge to view on-demand at the International Railway Summit website: http://www.irits.org/webinar-series/the-power-of-digital-to-inspire-rail-passenger-confidence/. Part 4, “Smarter ticketing to bring rail passengers back safely”, will take place on 16 December.