News

App solution lets passengers find out if lifts and escalators work before travelling

29 May 2019

A solution that would allow passengers with accessibility challenges to see lift and escalator status, in real-time, and plan their journey around it through existing apps like Trainline, Citymapper, and National Rail Enquiries has won the first ever InfraHack hackathon.

InfraHack is an initiative designed to help drive forward innovation across the infrastructure sector. It brings together the best innovators who have skills in machine learning, data science, and software engineering, pairing them up with infrastructure leaders and changemakers for the purpose of building new technology that improves asset management, project construction, and infrastructure decision making.

Industry giants such as Network Rail, TfL, NIC, National Grid, BEIS, YPP, Northumbrian Water, Mott Macdonald and Highways England came together to collaboratively solve challenges over the four days.

The winning team, Team 404 Not Found, comprised innovators from the tech sector and transport industry who answered the challenge set by Network Rail and TfL to help empower passengers with accessibility requirements with the information they need to plan their journeys and respond to unexpected changes in lift/escalator availability.

The solution will work with apps such as National Rail Enquiries

Knowing that the need to spread information as widely as possible was critical towards solving the challenge, the hackathon team built a publicly accessible data-feed known as a unified API that would provide real-time status of lifts and escalators at train stations across the UK.

This data could be used by passengers to plan their journey through existing apps like Trainline, CityMapper, and National Rail Enquiries. Notifications could also be sent instantly to passengers if a lift or escalator suddenly stopped working.

Anthony Dewar, head of buildings & architecture at Network Rail, said: “We knew we had lots of data on the status and condition of our lifts and escalators, but very little information. We felt it was ripe for letting the challenge loose on the data scientists, entrepreneurs and business developers at Infrahack.

“We are delighted with the solutions that were developed. They really did prove our data could be turned information to put passengers first by providing improved end-to-end journey information and in using big data to make better informed asset management decisions.”

Team 404 Not Found estimated that this could save Network Rail around £3-4m a year in better maintenance planning procedures in addition to improving customer satisfaction and mobility for customers with accessibility requirements

Team 404 Not Found presenting their solution at InfraHack

In second place was PIPES, a solution bringing together Bentley Systems’ iModel.js and 2D maps of water pipes to calculate their depth, creating a 3D map of Northumbrian Water’s 25,000km network of pipes.

Third place was Know Your Network, which created a decision supporting dashboard to help network operators better plan roadworks

Head of innovation at Highways England, Annette Pass, said: “We were delighted to be involved with InfraHack. The energy and talent Hack Partners brought together to tackle critical industry challenges was powerful. We are thrilled team ‘Know Your Network’ won third place.

“We’ll be looking to see how we can take forward their idea to better plan roadworks around events like football matches to improve the experience for our road customers.”