The UK’s newest rail franchise is testing a new form of technology that it’s hoped will address the issue of spare seats on trains going unused, using seat sensors that can register when as seat is occupied or empty. London North Eastern Railway (LNER) will position the sensors above every seat on the carriage which will reportedly be able to differentiate between luggage or other bags and passengers owing to a height-sensitive functionality.
Developed by McLaren Applied Technologies, a sister company of the Formula 1 team and supercar manufacturer, should testing throughout August prove successful the seat sensors could be rolled out across its fleet in autumn. The move to use the technology came, the operators said, to address the frustration that many customers feel when boarding a train without a reservation.
LNER, the UK government-owned operator that came to being in June this year after the previous operator Virgin Trains East Coast met with financial difficulties, is developing the system while also looking at ways that it can share this information with its passengers – presumably through the use of smartphone apps or passenger information systems.
A seat digital seat reservation system is already in use in Germany, where operators of intercity trains use electronic displays showing if a seat is reserved and changes if it’s unclaimed. Unlike the LNER seat sensor, the German example has no sensory capabilities and merely switches to unreserved 15 minutes after the train has left the applicable station.
Commenting on the LNER-McLaren project, a spokesperson from the train operating company said: “We know how frustrating it can be when you can’t find a seat on a train. That’s why we’re really excited about the Seat sensors we’ve been installing on our trains over the last few months. These sensors are part of a new seat reservations system which will allow customers to find a seat far easier and quicker.”
To learn more about other technologies that could change the way people use transport, visit the SmartMetro website, providing information on the show that will be a meeting point for senior metro, tram, and light rail technology experts. Hosted in Paris, it will take place between 29th - 31st October, 2018.
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