Computer scientists trial rapid information system at Merseyrail stations

Merseyrail staff will be the first in the country to have delay updates in the palm of their hand.

Trials of a new intelligent passenger information system are underway. It will see platform staff provided with hand-held devices that pick up alerts directly from a range of rail data sources.

“The idea is to make our staff the best informed in the country. That way they can provide information more quickly and accurately to our customers,” explained a spokesperson.

Named IRIS, the technology will serve not only Merseyrail passengers but also those travelling on national services from the city-south hub and has been created by developers and scientists at Liverpool John Moores University.

IRIS will provide staff with a two-way communication channel, which harvests information from different sources into one single view.

“There is a lot of information out there, the key is putting it at the fingertips of staff so they can quickly understand a situation – say a delay – and provide more useful answers to passenger queries,” explained Professor Thanh Nguyen, a computer scientist and lead researcher of the project.

“Our system uses intelligent algorithms to interpret the information and translate it into simple but tailored messages. The result is that rail staff can inform passengers of information which is more specific to their particular journey in a much faster way.”

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The LJMU experts say the system will make information flow much more resilient in challenging times, for instance, when there is a major incident or flooding on the line.

Zoe Hands, Chief Operating Officer at Merseyrail, said, “This new technology will enhance our passengers’ experience in terms of the information we can provide to them quickly and efficiently, which is something we know is extremely important to Merseyrail passengers.

“Upon completion of this trial we will review the results and its effectiveness and decide upon our next steps as part of our commitment to top quality customer service.”

-The IRIS Project is funded by the Department for Transport through the First of a Kind Round 2020 competition, delivered by InnovateUK, a government-funded body to support business through research.