Skip to main content

Leading train company operators granted innovation funding:

Three leading train operating companies, Arriva UK Trains, Govia Thameslink Railway and First Great Western, have been awarded access to a £6m collaborative innovation fund as a result of entering RSSB’s Train Operator Competition 2015 (TOC’15).

TOC’15, a competition facilitated by RSSB’s Future Railway Programme, was launched in March by Transport Minister Claire Perry. Proposals were sought from industry to contribute to the 4C industry targets (Improving Customer experience and Capacity whilst reducing Cost and Carbon) outlined in the Rail Technical Strategy.

All three winners have a strong focus on their customers: Arriva UK Trains intend to develop and trial a “buy now pay later” scheme, Govia Thameslink Railway are looking at overcrowding and First Great Western intend to improve disruption management and to empower the passenger during delays.

The three organisations will now move forward to Stage 2, in which the organisation will be invited to submit detailed plans for the innovation projects and partnerships proposed in the submissions for Stage 1.

Transport Minister Claire Perry said:

“We are investing record amounts in providing better journeys for passengers across the UK as part of our long-term economic plan. Innovation is the key to delivering this commitment, and I am delighted to see industry rise to the challenge with three strong bids that put passengers at the heart of their business. I look forward to seeing their progress and I hope other rail companies are inspired by these examples.”

David Clarke, RSSB Director of Innovation, commented:

“We received nine entries to the TOC’15 competition, covering six owning groups, 13 TOCs, two ROSCOs , four universities, and some 42 delivery partners. This speaks volumes about how keen TOCs are to lead innovation and to make a difference. The variety of the entries we received illustrates that there are some great ideas out there which we can now start to develop and trial. To repeat what Claire Perry said at the TOC’15 launch in March, innovation is vital to the rail industry as passenger numbers and customer expectations continue to rise. We look forward to working with these train operators and taking their ideas to the next stage to deliver benefits to the industry.”

For further information about the TOC’15 competitions visit:


About RSSB

RSSB is an expert, not for profit, membership body which supports the rail industry to improve safety and operational performance. We bring organisations together from across the industry to help deliver benefits to passengers and businesses while providing value to the taxpayer. Our members include infrastructure companies, train and freight operators, rolling stock owners and suppliers to the industry.

Website: Twitter: @RSSB_rail


About RSSB’s Future Railway Programme

RSSB’s Future Railway Programme was established to support innovation in the delivery of the Rail Technical Strategy (RTS). It has cross industry support through the Technical Strategy Leadership Group, run by RSSB. It promotes innovation by supporting cross-industry demonstrator projects and seeking out innovative ideas and proposals from across the industry. The approach is to: understand the challenges that industry faces; connect potential innovators with these challenges; and, where necessary with potential funding.

Website: Twitter: @FutureRailway


About The Finalists

Arriva UK Trains

Arriva UK trains have put together a compelling portfolio focused on the strongly linked themes of big data and passengers.
The data theme focuses on producing a coordinated data infrastructure and the tools to exploit it. This will allow the generation of new insights into the railway operation and speed up getting information to the people that need it. Network Rail and the train manufacturer Bombardier are both partners for this theme, with additional collaboration coming from the West Midlands transport authority Centro and specialist expertise from HaCon, Data Alchemist and Enable ID.

The passenger theme aims to provide improved communication and remove barriers to travel planning and purchase. The goals of the portfolio are to remove the requirement to purchase a ticket in advance, vastly simplify the fare structure, and keep the passenger connected at all times, especially during periods of disruption. This will be led by Chiltern railways, who will be collaborating with Network Rail and Aston University.

These two themes are spread between three train operating companies: Chiltern, Cross-country, and London Overground Rail Operations Limited.

Projects will take from 1-3 years to complete, with benefits realised 2-4 years from initiation. The Benefit-Cost ratio is anticipated to be 7.6:1.


Govia Thameslink Railway

Govia aims to reduce overcrowding, both in stations and on trains. The portfolio will enable customers to make informed travel choices, improve the company’s live decision making about capacity, and enable better strategic planning using historical and forecasted crowd modelling. This will help reduce overcrowding by dispersing passenger loads across more services.

Govia are partnering with National Rail Enquiries and the University of Southampton to deliver this capability. The results will be made available for use by the wider industry, enabling passengers to know which is the emptiest carriage; where are the empty seats, when is the best time to travel, and letting railway operators make the best decisions about what services to run and how to respond in real-time to developing challenges.

The pilot will use the London-Brighton line as a trial route, and include Gatwick Express. It is expected that the initiatives will start generating benefits in 1-2 years, with a predicted benefit- cost ratio of 4:1.


First Great Western

First Rail Holdings have developed two innovation themes on next generation train Wi-Fi and the management of train disruption, which will be trialled at First Great Western (FGW).

Future communications technology (mm-wave) has the potential to deliver internet connections at speeds of over 400Mbps to a train, far in excess of today’s Wi-Fi. FGW will be partnering with Network Rail, the University of Bristol, and Level3 communications in a yearlong research project to explore this area, which could lead to faster internet connections for passengers.

Passengers consistently rate the ability of train operators to keep them informed during times of disruption as highly important. Better connectivity is crucial to improving this area. FGW will be leading three projects in this field, bringing together world class location technology from the Geo-Intelligence Programme line of Airbus Defence and Space and specialist capability from sources such as IPL, Microsoft, and Worldine. The partners will generate data for a hackathon to design templates for operators to help manage disruption, and a real time information app will be developed that will be used by rail passengers to help manage their journey. This will be led by FGW supported by industry partners.

The longest project lasts 15 months, and the portfolio is expected to deliver a benefit cost ratio in the order of 3:1.
All of the entrants identified here are co-funding their applications. Future Railway Programme are delighted to be able to support TOC15’s applicants grow appetite for innovation and ongoing commitment to accelerating real change in the industry.


Leave a Reply