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Why Trains Vanish Between Bethnal Green and Liverpool Street

17th October 2016

Good information on the number of people using trains is fundamental to many areas of railway planning. Currently most rail usage data in the UK is derived from ticket sales, although this provides little knowledge about the time of day at which the passengers travel and offers limited coverage in London and Passenger Transport Executive (PTE) areas.

We were commissioned by the Department for Transport to develop and run a central passenger counts database that brings together data collected from over 20 Train Operating Companies. This is big data in action – the Internet of Things if you like where the Things are actually trains. The project has presented numerous challenges, from defining the terms used by the rail industry in data terms (e.g. exactly what is a train or peak and off peak), working out how to get the data from the various ways that passengers are counted (by the train manager, using automatic counters on doors and even weighing them – or at least the train) and even understanding why trains always “vanish” between Bethnal Green and Liverpool Street. Having done that we then had to produce statistically valid data representing every passenger on every train between every location on the rail network and a means of reporting on it.
The Rail Passenger Counts Database provided by the Capita Technology team in Carlisle went live Monday 10th October for the first tranche of train operators and will be rolling out to the rest over the coming months and just remember when you succumb to that pasty or cream cake on the station that your train may be weighing you.

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