Passenger flow management in these unprecedented times and the alleviation of congestion is crucial in avoiding a second-wave. With 426 million passenger journeys last quarter, rail has always been one of the primary forms of transportation for commuters. With the gradual easing of lockdown, more people are returning to work and rail services are set to increase. As passengers return transport planners have said travel patterns need to be changed permanently to avoid ‘peak’. Transport networks around the country are enhancing their safety measures to protect staff and passengers. However, rail leaders are grappling with how to manage the demand of passengers at a level which will maintain 2m apart throughout the passenger journey. 62% of passengers saying they wouldn’t feel comfortable using public transport unless social distancing is enforced. 

(London Tube, May 12th, 2020)

Harnessing technology from aviation will support efforts to monitor and restrict passenger flow. When detecting various points in a passenger journey, there is currently no precise way to measure densities of people within the station, train or platform. Trains will have to reduce capacity to 20 – 40 passengers per train to adhere to social distancing measures. A 2m queue approach would lead to never-ending queues outside of the station and on platforms. The process would also be harder to manage by employees and police effectively. 

Simple solutions can be built for estimating the number of passengers in a train, by counting the smartphone WiFi signals (above a certain signal strength) in each carriage, or at several points along the train, then sending the information over 3G to a central online information dashboard, for public access. This kind of solution would not force passengers to change their former train-boarding behaviour.

Another solution may be a boarding pass system that would manage expectations and numbers before travel, using an application and a web-based server. When purchasing tickets it will be essential for passengers to check-in to reserve a seat. The system will provide employees with the knowledge and intelligence to effectively handle capacity challenges. It will also add a precautionary layer of protection for those passengers who are vulnerable, mitigating the risk of a second-wave of coronavirus.

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