Rail firm uses passenger weight data to calculate social distancing availability

A rail company has become the first in the UK to use data on passenger weight to enable better social distancing.

Southeastern, which runs services in London and the South East, will use train load data from the previous week to estimate how full carriages are likely to be on any given journey.

The new SeatFinder tool will show red, amber and green indicators to indicate the level of available capacity on trains.

The colours help people understand if there is sufficient space for passengers to keep 2m or 1m apart while on-board.

The system calculates the “average” weight of a person as 80kg, though this also takes into account luggage.

John Backway, head of retail at Southeastern, said: “The next couple of months will see many people returning to the railway network as schools and workplaces try to get back to a new normal.

“During this period, many of our regular passengers will want to adjust their travel patterns based on Government guidance, so we’re pleased to be introducing this new solution to the rail sector that helps address this.

“Our teams at Southeastern have worked extremely hard to make the data available and accessible to help passengers plan their journeys and support social distancing to ensure they can be confident of a safe travel experience.”

Southeastern is the first train operator in the UK to collate its train capacity information in this way and share it directly with passengers in this way.

Southeastern data tool
Southeastern data tool

It is also the first UK train operator to make this data available through rail industry open data feeds, so that third party developers can access it.

Southeastern says the new service covers 93% of its stations and provides an innovative solution to help passengers make informed decisions about their journey pattern.

From September 5, Southeastern’s timetable will be back to almost pre-Covid-19 levels, with 98% of services running.

Seat availability will also be improved, with Southeastern adding an extra 900 carriages and 50,000 seats, the operator said.

The SeatFinder service will be rolled out more widely on Southeastern’s app and journey planner website in September.