Train trial to get customers moving
Thousands of Sydney rail commuters could benefit from faster boarding times pending the success of a trial of Dwell Track, a multidisciplinary robotic sensor technology solution developed by UTS in collaboration with Downer Group and the Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre.
The amount of time a train is stationary at a platform while people alight/ board is a major factor in whether customers reach their destination on time. Extended dwell times affect train path capacity, service delivery and reliability, causing delays and inefficient use of infrastructure. Precise mapping of crowd behaviour and train dwell times will help improve systems to make sure customers get where they need to go.
Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance joined Sydney Trains Chief Executive Howard Collins at Wynyard Station to launch the trial, explaining how it can assist with dwell times at stations and move customers safely.
This could be a technological solution to a very human problem. Customers often become creatures of habit and wait at the same spot at train platforms, without realising that by moving down the platform they are more likely to board faster and find a less populated carriage.
The trial involves 3D camera technology combined with perception algorithms, and has installed 16 infra-red and digital devices at Wynyard’s Platform 3 of to ‘sense’ movement without identifying customers, said Dr Alen Alempijevic from the UTS Centre for Autonomous Systems.
The device has two functions – capturing the movement of customers through two infra-red sensing lenses, and using high-resolution digital RedGreenBlue (RGB) cameras to capture train stops and doors opening and closing.
We developed several algorithms to identify the head and shoulders, the body parts most visible in a crowd. Dwell Track uses this detail, combined with an understanding of social norms, to track individual movements by determining train door positions, door status, platform occupancy, passenger counts and the direction passengers are moving.
With more than 1.4 million customer journeys a day with Sydney Trains, we are always looking at new ways to improve customer experience, Mr Collins said.
Dwell Track can be downloaded onto mobile devices as a real time support tool for Sydney Trains staff, providing vital information to help them reduce platform congestion and improve passenger direction for greater efficiency and effectiveness. If this trial is successful, it has the potential for adaption to the needs of other rail and transport operators for future use. This is one of the most innovative piece of technology that’s been developed in supporting Sydney Trains to keep our customers moving.
This has been a collaborative project since 2015, combining research strengths in transport and passenger knowledge with digital capabilities in metrics and analysis, robotics and hardware, to map passenger platform movement in real time, providing information to reduce the time rail passengers need to embark/disembark crowded inner-city rail station platforms to ensure trains leave on time.
Hervé Harvard, Director UTS Rapido & ProtoSpace, oversees the project and said it is a great example of how Rapido draws on the array of research resources and facilities at UTS to develop an effective collaboration with our partners, providing expertise where needed.
For Dwell Track the interdisciplinary team includes the UTS Transport Research Centre, which is developing the technology for Responsive Passenger Information (RPI) Systems that explore ways to improve the commuting experience by using robotic sensor and digital information technologies to inform, influence and coordinate user behaviour.
Tim Young, Executive General Manager of Downer’s Rollingstock Services said the amount of time a train remains at a platform determines whether it reaches its destination on time.
We’re committed to developing innovative solutions that improve the passenger experience. Dwell Track not only provides real-time data to aid decision making but will also provide longer-term insights into dwell management and platform operations. This technology is a key example of what collaborative partnerships between industry, university, and our customers can achieve.
CEO Dr Stuart Thomson, of the Rail Manufacturing CRC, supports developing new technologies and knowledge to improve Australia’s rail industry, while also building awareness about the importance of research and development.
Dwell Track data will provide long-term insights into platform operations around dwell management practices, sharing key knowledge for future infrastructure planning for Australia’s rail industry.
With the capacity to provide value to operators and customers alike, Dwell Track is an Australian-developed technology that represents innovation for a world-class rail system.
The Dwell Track trial is one of several initiatives Sydney Trains is exploring with UTS to improve dwell times and customer safety and comfort.