Innovation of the Year 2018

Firstco - Tunnel Control System

Innovation Firstco

Firstco were contracted by Heathrow Airport to upgrade the station systems that are used to operate the Heathrow Rail Service. The most important element of the project was the development of the new Tunnel Control System (TCS). The TCS is a central command and control application that controls and monitors systems and assets across Heathrow Rail’s three stations and running tunnels.

Systems that are integrated into the TCS include security, customer information, PA/VA, radio, telephony, data networks, lifts, escalators, tunnel ventilation, fire panels, fire main valves, power and tunnel lighting. Over 7000 assets are integrated into the TCS, providing users with real time information on the health and status of the entire rail infrastructure.

The first phase of the new TCS is now in operational use, as are the PA/VA and customer information systems. The remainder will be migrated in the new year. The systems have all been brought into operational use without affecting the passenger experience or impacting on the operational service. 

Journey PAL - The Rating Product for Accessible Travel

Innovation JourneyPAL

Journey PAL is a web-based product that lets passengers with restricted mobility view and rate their rail journey, specific to their personal needs, whilst allowing them to contribute to a crowd-sourced database of accessibility information. Train operators can access the big data, that the product produces, to assist them in continuously improving the end-to-end journey.

Current information provided by operators is generic; therefore, of limited use to users who need to know whether a specific facility is available. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult for passengers with specific requirements to find out information regarding a journey across modes, such as using rail to access an airport, where there is no standard terminology for accessible facilities.

Journey PAL overcomes these issues by empowering passengers, with all the information they need to understand how accessible a station or service is – all in one place. Prior to taking a journey, customers can view a consolidated information platform that provides all information on their up-coming journey, tailored to their personal needs, including ratings of the journey and facilities by other travellers with similar requirements. Once they have undertaken a journey, they can upload a review for other passengers.

City Air Terminal - CATch the City

Innovation CAT

With the CATch the City product, the City Airport Train addresses the demand of stopover passengers for a fast and reliable connection to and from the city centre and attractive sightseeing offers that could be enjoyed within a few hours.

The new product comprises of 4 different offers for a short stopover in Vienna. Passengers can choose between a ride with The Vienna Giant Ferris Wheel, a typical Viennese coffee break with coffee and apple strudel or a trip around the Ring Boulevard on a Hop-on Hop-off bus. The fourth offer is the CAT Return Ticket, in case the stopover passengers want to discover the city of Vienna in their own time.

Tickets cost € 39 and include the CAT Return Ticket and a day ticket for the Viennese public transport system, which is valid until midnight. Upon return to the airport all ticket holders can use the security fast lane in order to get to their gate without queues or delays.
So far over 6,000 additional CAT passengers - a new target group that might otherwise not have been reached - have used the CATch the City product.

Heathrow Express – Blue Lights

Innovation HEX

Blue hazard lights which flash when the train doors of Heathrow Express open on Platform 6 at London Paddington were switched on in December 2017, as part of a new measure to warn passengers to mind the gap and improve train and platform safety.

The challenge is to prevent passengers and staff from tripping into the gap between the train and the platform (otherwise known as step board incidents), which is one of the highest causes of accidents across the UK rail network. Not only do they provide a health and safety risk to passengers and staff, they also inevitably cause delays.

This is the first-time blue lights have been installed at a national rail station. This move follows an earlier innovation by Heathrow Express of installing gap fillers at Heathrow stations, but the same system couldn’t be implemented at Paddington due to curved platforms.

Heathrow Express and Network Rail devised the solution and Pod-Trak installed the lights below the platform edge so lights reflect off the train. Working alongside the blue lights are eye-catching footprint vinyl's with “mind your step” warning messages. The lights and vinyls have resulted in a 95% decrease in step board accidents compared to 2015.

Expedition - HS4Air

Innovation HS4

HS4Air (High Speed for Air) is a proposed strategic high-speed air-rail connection in south east England. The proposal is for a new high-speed railway connection that links the existing HS1 line with the planned HS2 line passing via both Gatwick and Heathrow airports to the south and west of London.

By allowing a transfer of only 15 minutes between Heathrow and Gatwick, the two airports can be perceived as one airport by users and operators and by taking both rail passenger and freight traffic out of London, significant rail capacity is released back for use by Londoners.

Express Rail Link - Improving Accessibility For The Disabled

Innovation ERL

Using public transport can be challenging for wheelchair-bound passengers. Although ERL received feedback from only one wheelchair-bound passenger who had difficulties boarding the train, the company still responded promptly to that complaint. Since any modification to the platform were not be viable, ERL had to innovate by creating a custom-made platform ramp. By adopting the design thinking process, the staff were able to empathise, define and translate a simple idea into a useful and cost-efficient solution.

The ramps can be fitted securely over different platform gap widths. With this simple innovation, ERL is now able to provide a safer and more stable boarding for wheelchair-bound passengers at its stations.

Heathrow Express

Innovation HEX2

Heathrow Express together with experiential technology company Arcstream have created a fun, immersive experience which tracks the walking speed of passengers via infra-red cameras then estimates how long it would take them to walk to London Paddington Station.

This is then projected onto a subway wall along with images of London via a series of ceiling mounted projectors in Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport. Finally, the projection image blurs as if a speeding train is going past and messages remind customers that they would “get there sooner” in just 15 minutes if they took the Heathrow Express train.

This serves to increase visibility and brand awareness at the right time on the arrivals route, helping to stand out from the crowd and encourage passengers to choose Heathrow Express over other onward travel options.