A study by an Aston University engineering systems and management expert suggests that encouraging rail passengers to buy tickets via their smartphones is one of three changes that could make commuting quicker and safer.
Dr. Marin Marinov, lecturer in infrastructure systems and sustainable engineering in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Aston University, has conducted research into the rail passenger flow on the concourse of Birmingham New Street railway station prior to and during COVID-19.
According to a report produced by the Department for Transport in 2020, pre-COVID there was an increase in passenger demand across all major cities during the peak hours. Compared to 2018 there was an increase of 2.4% in morning arrivals as well as a 1.2% increase in evening departures. In addition, the data indicates that the West Midlands region saw the highest growth of rail usage to 101 million (up by 274%) since 1997/98.
Dr. Marinov used an event-based simulation model to examine data on passenger numbers and behavior from the Office of Rail and Road and other sources. The statistics were used to calculate and make reasonable assumptions and estimates in three scenarios: evening rush-hour travel pre-COVID, pre-COVID travel but with fewer tickets machines working and travel during the epidemic in March 2020.
It’s not surprising that passengers who have already purchased their train tickets electronically can go through the station concourse without waiting, while those without tickets will be more likely to wait in line to purchase their tickets at the station.
Based on the findings of the study, Dr. Marinov has made three recommendations that could make commutes safer and more efficient. The suggestions are made in the paper “Rail Transit Analysis of rail passenger flow in a rail station concourse prior to and during COVID-19 pandemic using event-based simulation models and scenarios” published in the journal Urban Rail Transit.
The first suggestion is for rail companies to encourage passengers to buy train tickets via their smartphones, rather than at ticket machines at stations or ticket offices. This will allow them to travel faster to the platforms. In all three scenarios, there are at least 20% of passengers taking longer than 15 minutes to reach the platform, which the author suggests is caused by blockages in the system such as queues at the ticket machines and ticket offices.
The second idea is to eliminate ticket gates and replace them by sensors that automatically detect passengers using their smartphones. This would reduce passengers’ wait times at the station and allow passengers more room to socialize in the event that there is another pandemic. There have been suggestions that smartphones could be connected to the sensors to automatically bill the correct fare. This would reduce the time that passengers spend in the station.
The last suggestion is to have one-way flow systems in the main concourse. This would increase safety and reduce the risk of overcrowding. This system is already in use at Birmingham New Street station’s Navigation Street concourse.
Dr. Marinov said: “Railway passenger stations, especially in urban areas, need to have an effective railway station c