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Two-day rail trip inspires industry solutions for DfT  

More than 100 ‘hackers’ travelled up and down the country’s rail network over the weekend looking for cost-effective solutions to industry challenges ahead of presenting ideas to the rail minister next month.

The 48-hour ‘HackTrain’ event, a nationwide private sector but government-supported initiative, was designed to make the rail industry more innovative and effective. During it, several software developers, designers and entrepreneurs from across the world boarded three trains travelling between London and York.

The day began with speeches from transport minister Andrew Jones MP and several rail sector companies, including HS2 Ltd, Eversholt Rail Group, Virgin Trains East Coast, South West Trains (SWT) and Great Western Railway.

Speaking at the time, Jones, who said the event could help speed up the introduction of smart ticketing, said: “I am delighted that some of the best technological minds are joining up to explore innovative ways to improve journeys for customers. The teams have been set some very real and important challenges, and I very much look forward to seeing what solutions they find.

“This is all about bringing together two of our big success stories that haven’t been brought together before.”

Participants then split up and embarked on three separate journeys to the National Railway Museum in York, where they presented their prototypes. Of the three main tasks this year, two focused on finding a solution to overcrowding and another on providing better information about service disruption.


There will now be a 10-day consultation period after which the 10 best teams will be invited to present proposals to rail minister Claire Perry MP and a host of major operators.

The winning team will then enter the world’s first rail accelerator programme, the HackTrain Accelerator, where they will be handed £25,000 and the chance to work with rail experts and suppliers to develop and trial their product during three months.

As part of the event, SWT, one of the sponsors, tasked ‘hackers’ with creating an innovative solution to managing the location of train crew during disruption, while helping services return to their regular timetables as soon as possible.

James Vickers, the operator’s commercial & business development director, said ahead of the event: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming the team of hackers onto our trains this weekend and we’re hoping that they come up with some useable, unique and innovative solutions to issues faced by the rail industry.”


The entire initiative was founded by two young technology experts, River Tamoor Baig and Alejandro Sauedo, who brought together hundreds of industry experts to drive forward rail technology.

Baig commented: “The railway industry is the backbone of the UK, enabling individuals and businesses to travel and connect with whoever they wish. Technology has disrupted other industries, such as finance and aviation, making them more efficient and useful to everyone.

“By harnessing technology and data in the right way, we can take the same leap forward in rail.”

Some of the winning proposals during the 48-hour event included seeing how crowded a train is through pioneering CCTV face recognition technology and looking at augmented reality on a platform.

Other teams put forward ideas for influencing customer behaviour to take less crowded trains, scanning the orange train ticket to find out its validity on the next services and load useful information, and developing a taxi-sharing app that matches passengers while on the train.

According to the transport minister, a previous hackathon also resulted in an app that helped passengers navigate interconnecting stations after operators abandoned a similar project after 18 months.


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