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Chippenham intelligent station project for First Group

Making light work for more intelligent stations

The challenge

Performance and safety (including the movement of people) at train stations is a key concern in rail transport today; especially with the increasing number of passengers, and often out-dated station spaces.

The Rail Technology Strategy believes that improving capacity and enhancing customer experience will increase passenger flow in stations. Which has the potential to deliver benefits of over £258m.

A consortium consisting of Urban Control, DW Windsor, the DfT, InnovateUK, FirstGroup, The University of Nottingham and the RSSB, embarked on a study to address these concerns.

Key project requirements

  • Create intelligent stations that respond to the needs of customers, using dynamic lighting

  • Use light to get people on and off trains and through the station quickly and safely

  • Find an alternative to existing wayfinding solutions; de-cluttering stations of outdated signage/zoning systems

  • Modernise the rail industry through the use of current trends i.e. experience lighting: that’s flexible, controllable, responsive and intuitive

  • The system must be instinctive and engaging

The solution

Traditionally, printed signage has been used to help commuter flow, but signs need to be cognitively processed, which can take a few more precious seconds. Light on the other hand is more intuitive and quicker to process.

It is proven that lighting can influence behaviour, speed and the movement of people. Many stations are already upgrading their functional lighting to LED to save energy, but LED lighting, with intelligent control functionality, can create further reach.

Proof of concept

The University of Nottingham’s Human Factors team and Geospatial Institute led a research study to identify the typical movement-related issues a station faces. They then conducted an extensive review of lighting research literature, particularly, reported effects of lighting upon behaviour/mood. Which led to the identification of clear opportunities for using light to influence movement behaviours.

As a result, the FirstGroup agreed for a proof of concept trial site, at Chippenham Station. A project funded by the Department for Transport and delivered through a competition run by InnovateUK: Accelerating Innovation in Rail 4 (AIR4).

Led by our sister company DW Windsor, Urban Control developed new wireless, connected lights and sensors that are controlled through cloud-based software.

The Projects

Platforms project

Aim: to reduce train dwell time at the station as well as improve customer experience and safety; providing intuitive information to customers on where to stand to board the train and improve the flow of passengers off the trains and on the platform.

We used Gobo filter with a powerful projector to display a light pattern on the platform indicating to passengers where to stand in alignment with a carriage door; allowing a freer flow of passengers disembarking.

The result

Initial results were extremely positive.

People did notice the lights (i.e. looked up ‐ looked back, looked up ‐looked along) and a small proportion of people used the lights to stand in the correct place.

Handrail stairway lighting​ project

Aim: to encourage efficient bi-directional passenger flows, improve space allocation and regulate walking speeds. To reduce disruption and injuries caused by congestion on stairways

DW Windsor installed pulsing handrail lighting to indicate direction and pace on the stairway. Coloured LED lights were placed at the top of the staircase to align people descending.

The result

Survey responses indicated that passengers understood the purpose of the lighting.

It was found that the lights were more visible during darkness or partial light – ideal for high commuter times, but the movement effect was strongest around dawn. Passengers were affected and acted accordingly with the lights when noticing the lights.

In conclusion, the lights were noticeable and functioned as intended. People responded to the lights and some understood the intended reaction; others thought they were to inspire use of the handrail, which encouraged safer usage and movement. Staff found the lights useful as a device to back up their suggestions on how to use the stairway.

“This has been a very exciting project to be involved in. Innovative initiatives of this nature can open the door to a world of possibilities and are setting the standard for future customer experiences” Stuart Parker, FirstGroup, Property Director

For more information, contact us.


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