Beginning in March 2017, the Rail Safety Standards Board (RSSB) co-funded programme, valued a £1.4m, will facilitate the sharing of disabled customers’ travel requirements with train operating companies (TOCs), bus and taxi firms, food and beverage retailers and even chemists. It seeks to enable the rail industry to measure and maximise the impact of improvements to customer accessibility, through the creation of a collaborative ‘intelligent accessibility hub’.
Department for Transport 2015 Transport and Disability statistics report 9% of adults as having a mobility difficulty. However, disabled customers undertake an estimated 5% of all rail journeys in the UK – predominantly because of barriers to traveling by rail caused by inaccessible rail services. TOC Ability aims to solve this problem through shared understanding of the nature, causes and commercial impact of inefficient customer accessibility and mobility at stations and on trains.
The economic attributes of inefficiently managed accessibility, missed connections, increased dwell time and station congestion, naturally impact the appeal and profitability of travelling by rail. This creates an opportunity for significant return on investment in improved accessibility at stations, yet there is currently no rail industry model for equating these attributes to the associated costs of managing accessibility.
To better understand and reverse this, industry partners will each play different delivery roles in order to scope, develop and pilot the TOC Ability platform in live train station environments. The solution will be tested with a focus group of disabled customers with varying accessibility needs. The project will be delivered through the collaboration of TfL and Arriva UK Trains, joint TOC sponsors, Atkins, project management and business intelligence lead, Goss Consultancy, access and inclusion specialists chairing an ‘accessibility panel’, Loughborough University, providing customer experience expertise, the University of Surrey’s cyber security experts, and technology lead, Stratford-upon-Avon based, Enable iD.
TOC Ability aims to provide a scalable framework for sharing customers’ accessibility requirements between train operators, whilst preserving people’s privacy. It will protect personally identifiable information (PII) by using a unique consent management system, which can be integrated within train operators’ booking, mobile app and customer relationship management systems. It is being designed to meet international governance standards for data protection, and to ensure the GB rail industry is compliant with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation act in respect of sharing the management of sensitive customer data.
Over 20 months the project partners will integrate legacy infrastructure with new systems and applications, proving viability, customer value and interoperability with existing rail industry, journey planning, and transport service provider platforms. It is hoped that TOC Ability will help break down boundaries between rail operators and suppliers to the industry, advancing the GB rail networks’ overall accessibility.