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Darwin expanded to replace TOC and NR customer information systems

The rail industry’s central train running information engine, Darwin, has now replaced 66 separate customer information systems (CIS), operated by train operators and Network Rail, with one single system delivering consistency to the information provided to customers.

The Darwin CIS Project represents an investment of £9m, funded by the National Stations Improvement Programme, and is part of the industry’s strategy to improve customer information.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said the new system will ensure customers see the same live information however they choose to look for it: online, via an app, from station staff or on station screens.

All of Britain’s rail stations that have CIS information screens installed, approximately 1,600 or two-thirds of the national total, will be covered by the harmonised system.

All TOCs and Network Rail have been involved with the project, replacing their own systems with the new national information feed. The RDG noted that While CrossCountry, Grand Central and Hull Trains do not operate any of their own stations, the new system means that better management of train information at stations is possible for all train operators.

Jacqueline Starr, managing director for customer experience at the RDG, said: “Our customers tell us that they want better information, especially when services are disrupted, and this project is an important step towards addressing that need.

“Many rail passengers will be familiar with the panic that sets in when they are waiting for a train and the screen on the station platform tells them one thing but the app on their phone says another. The improvements we're making today should bring an end to those moments.

“Being able to trust the origin of information on the railway is crucial for customers so that they can make the best decisions about their journeys. We know that we haven’t always got it right in the past, but we hope this change will make life that bit easier for our passengers.” 

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Huguenot   29/06/2016 at 19:45

Perhaps the system will now dispense with the default 'On Time' display when it hasn't a clue whether a train that has not yet started out from its originating station will indeed be on time. 'On time' can show even if the stock hasn't even arrived at the originating station. In these circumstances, displays should merely show blank until definite positive train running information is avaiable.

John Grant   01/07/2016 at 12:22

What about all those times when the display at King's Cross doesn't show a platform but RealTimeTrains or OpenTrainTimes does? Does "consistent" mean the displays showing the platform earlier (maybe before it's ready for people to board), or the apps not showing it until it's too late for less-mobile passengers to get from the concourse to the platform?

John Grant   01/07/2016 at 12:29

Oh, and will the new system understand about delayed trains holding up others? Fast trains shown as overtaking a late stopping train, for instance, when there's no possibility of doing so, or trains shown as entering a single track section when there's a late train coming the other way still occupying it?

Jerry Alderson   01/07/2016 at 15:22

Inconsistent real-time train departure/arrival details is just one of the issues caused by each TOC having thier own back offie systems supported by a plethora of suppliers. Railfuture has complained to the rail industry about TVMs not showing new stations - some TOCs do and some don't and there seems to be no obvious pattern to it. Worse still, ScotRail shows Lea Bridge on some of its TVMs and not on others - even adjacant TVMs at the same station! Obviously these problems do not occur in countries with a single operator.

Martin Thorne   03/07/2016 at 18:24

I presume the upgrade to Darwin now includes displaying charter train information (noted on the Customer Information Systems at Ely plus the recently installed LCD screens at March last Saturday week, which replaced the now-obsolete CRT CIS screens that were funded by Cambridgeshire County Council some years ago? Whilst charter train customers are probably not as important as those that travel by train regularly for work or leisure purposes, they have often been treated as second-class customers at stations by the previous lack of station information about said trains, even though they are often paying the same or more than regular fare-paying customers-sometimes considerably more if they have paid for a Dining option or are travelling on a steam-hauled charter train.

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