NIC welcomes plans for closer links between the rail industry and technology firms

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced ambitions and obligations to encourage closer links between the rail industry and technology firms so intelligent travel apps can be developed to support more seamless journeys and better information on services.

Plans have been published in the Joint Rail Data Action Plan which were unveiled by rail minister Jo Johnson and Rail Delivery Group chief executive Paul Plummer. It means increased data sharing could better inform passengers on possible delays, seat availability and on-board facilities like refreshments and toilets.

Technology advancements have been said to be vital on railways moving forward with more data providing customers with more control.

“Technology gave rise to the railway, connecting Britain, and the rail industry wants to channel this spirit to help produce cutting edge products and services that can be exported around the world,” Plummer said. “Digital technology in rail already means more timely information and less time spent waiting, helping to put customers in charge, and as part of the rail industry’s plan to change and improve we want to use technology to give customers more and more control.”

The move follows publication of the National Infrastructure Commission’s report, Data for the Public Good, which highlighted the increased benefits and improved efficiencies that could be achieved by sharing data across infrastructure sectors.

Responding to the announcement, a National Infrastructure Assessment spokesman said: “This joint initiative to increase data sharing across the rail sector puts our recommendations into practice, and will lead to better information for passengers. We’ve highlighted the need for data sharing across infrastructure sectors under a dedicated framework, and this is an important step towards that.  We look forward to seeing how the rail industry and other sectors take this agenda forward.”

The DfT says the plan will see the rail industry identify and remove barriers to better information by improving standardisation of how data is collected, stored and published, and improving clarity over which data is commercially sensitive and what data can be used for what purposes. 

The government and rail industry will also explore what incentives could be introduced to drive further innovation and data sharing, on top of that already planned.

Johnson added: “This will speed the development of travel apps that provide passengers with helpful information about their journeys.”

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