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Expert view: the rail data analytics helping fans in a summer of sport.

Posted by SmartRail World Staff on Jul 11, 2016

Platform Pitch arrives at St Pancras International (Euro 2016 and Eurostar)The 2016 European Football Championships and Wimbledon may have concluded but a great Summer of sport is far from over with the Rio Olympics and Paralympics starting in a few weeks. Amidst all the excitement of planning to attend major sporting events, its normally tickets and not travel that is the focus. And with the growth of high-speed and international rail journeys, taking the train is an increasingly popular option for sports fans. An estimated half a million British football fans have travelled to France this past month for Euro 2016 with many (including our Editor who enjoyed a faultless journey from London to Bordeaux on the rail network), taking advantage of the Eurostar and TGV high-speed rail to traverse France. However, a major increase in people using transportations hubs can cause major disruption. To learn some more about this challenge and how it can be overcome we welcome a guest contribution from Neil Barry, of Space Time Insight

To ensure a reliable service, it’s vital to consider the effects of people travelling in their thousands to certain places at one time. If we do not use all the information available to us to plan for these situations, the consequences can be everything from not having enough drivers on duty to delayed trains, missed connections and overcrowded platforms.

A cautionary tale...        

The 2015 Rugby World Cup held in England provides a cautionary tale. The tournament may have been a success for the country, the host nations's on pitch performance aside, but it did not pass without incident when it came to fan travel. 

At the start of the championship, headline after headline pointed towards transportation issues that resulted in organisers having to swiftly introduce changes to get the games up and running again. The situation reached boiling point with the Enterprise and Business Committee in the Welsh Assembly calling an emergency meeting with the transportation and council bosses to discover what had gone wrong for the games hosted in Cardiff. The issues during the Rugby World Cup, despite thousands of extra seats being made available (at a cost of £429,000 during the matches in Wales alone), were in a large part due to overcrowding. This was particularly evident during the matches for which over ten times the number of spectators travelled than had previously been predicted

Simply put, rail networks were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of passengers, causing issues throughout the tournament. While the challenges posed by this summer are on a far lower scale as the Euros and Olympics are not being held in the UK, similar flash points are likely to occur at certain times and locations. This is especially true when we consider unexpected hazards like the strikes and flooding that affected the French rail network before and during the Euros, as well as the storms which wreaked havoc in London in mid-late June. Therefore, if organisers and transportation chiefs do not accurately plan appropriately for increasing numbers of people using public transport, issues may arise.

Doing it right with analytics...

Rezied_Data_analytics.jpgTo avoid large crowds at key transport hubs and all the issues they can bring, decision makers must base their scheduling on predictive analytics using real data. We can turn to a British sporting summer of yesteryear for a good example of this. The 2012 Olympic Games saw record numbers passengers on the London Underground with over 60 million journeys being made (up 30 per cent on normal levels) and some days seeing as many as 4.6 million passengers travel on just one day. However, using predictive analytics to assess how many services were needed to cope with demand at peak times based on real data, the London Underground stood up to its toughest ever test. A total of over twenty one million rail journeys were made during the Olympic and Paralympic games – prompting major news outlets and commentators to praise the efforts of Transport for London (TFL).

Reading the game...

Building on the example above, predictive analytics technologies such as situational intelligence can take this level of planning a step further. By considering where people are going to be at a given time and what the direct impact of this will be, as well as analysing a broader range of data sets at the same time as opposed to in silos, situational intelligence unveils a bigger picture. For example, a Euro 2016 game involving England is likely to lead to more people watching the game in pubs. The knowledge of when and where that situation is occurring means transport planners can forecast the impact on their services and plan accordingly. Taking this a step further, in a multicultural city such as London it is likely that some nations are well represented by their migrant community in certain areas. However, if you analyse data in silos, it’s less likely that you will make the link that a game involving team x is happening and there are lots of people from nation x in location y.

Putting Public Transport at the Heart of Tomorrow's Smart Cities. By analysing multiple data sets from multiple sources, situational intelligence can provide insights at a macro, as well as a micro, level that apply to the immediate reality and are contextually aware. This is potentially an invaluable resource for companies looking to plan their operations better further in advance and gain insights that allow them to take advantage of potential opportunities or pre-empt issues that they would not have otherwise foreseen.

The Euros was a mixed bag for British teams. While England disappointed with an early exit, Northern Ireland registered their best performance since the 1980s and Wales became one of the unexpected stars of the tournament. But as the sporting focus now turns to Rio de Janiero, transport planners must ensure that they are using predictive analytics to accurate read and plan for unique situations. This can help ensure the summer is as successful on the train tracks as we’re hoping it we will be for the athletes on the track and field.

This is a guest post by Neil Barry, Senior Sales Director EMEA, Space-Time Insight ( @SpaceTimeInsght)


Interested in this focus on rail data or Big Data and rail, then you may also like... 

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Alstom opens Rio’s tramway ready for the 2016 Olympic Games. 

SmartMetro 2016 

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