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September 10, 2020

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Rail safety

‘SeatFinder’ launched to enable social distancing on trains

Train operator Southeastern, which runs services into London and the South East, is sharing train load data directly with passengers so they can understand carriage capacity before boarding services and social distance more effectively.

The new SeatFinder service updates daily, using train loading information from the previous week. The technology, which is built into many of its carriages, predicts the number of passengers on-board by analysing weight. This means passengers planning journeys on any given weekday will see how busy that service was the last time it ran so they can plan journeys with confidence.

Southeastern says it is the first train operator in the UK to collate its train capacity information in this way and share it directly with passengers, and to make this data available through rail industry open data feeds, so that third party developers can access it.

The new service covers 93% of its stations and provides an innovative solution to help passengers make informed decisions about their journey pattern as many will be returning to using travelling on the railway more regularly.

This is particularly critical as schools reopen and commuters return to their offices, says the operator. From 5 September, Southeastern’s timetable will be back to almost pre COVID-19 levels, with 98% of services running. Seat availability will also be improved, with Southeastern adding an extra 900 carriages and 50,000 seats.

By checking live departure boards on the Southeastern website and at stations, passengers will see red, amber or green indicators showing the level of available capacity on trains. These carriage capacity indicators will be set according to standards ensuring there is sufficient space for passengers to keep 2m or 1m apart whilst on-board.

SeatFinder

John Backway, Head of Retail at Southeastern said: “The next couple of months will see many people returning to the railway network as schools and workplaces try to get back to a new normal. During this period, many of our regular passengers will want to adjust their travel patterns based on government guidance, so we’re pleased to be introducing this new solution to the rail sector that helps address this.

“Our teams at Southeastern have worked extremely hard to make the data available and accessible to help passengers plan their journeys and support social distancing to ensure they can be confident of a safe travel experience.”

The service will be rolled out more widely on Southeastern’s app and journey planner website in September. This will also include data to highlight the type and status of on-board toilet facilities, bringing another new feature that is also industry leading. This will provide passengers with the status of hand washing facilities via Southeastern’s app and announcements at stations.

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