ProRail, the company responsible for the Netherlands rail infrastructure, is looking for new ways to enable drivers to stop the train at exactly the right point on the platform for travellers to safely, quickly and comfortably board and leave the train. Stopping a train at the optimal place for passengers is a more complex problem than it might seem. At present, machinists use a system of signboards on the platform that inform the driver where the right stopping point is based on the length of the train in cars. This has a number of disadvantages, including poor readability, high maintenance costs, and inflexibility (train cars vary in length depending on the type of train).
Requirements for new systems
We did desk research to better understand how vehicles stop, including an extensive international inventory of existing and new technologies that might offer solutions. We visualized this in a diagram that was easy for stakeholders to understand and that triggered them to add their own knowledge and expertise. In expert interviews, followed by an expert session with engine drivers, infrastructure, signage, project management and other specialists, we explored their current experience with stopping trains. They described their use of the signboards and other technologies, their information needs, and their concerns regarding efficiency and safety of travelers. Based on this, we created a set of requirements any new solution must meet.
Four new innovative concepts
A co-creation workshop was held to create new systems enabling trains to stop at the best location in relation to the platform. Based on the research results, participants created four new concepts for systems employing different ways of using data to determine the best stopping point, of processing it, and informing the engine driver. The technologies used vary from well established low-tech such as improved signage, to more cutting-edge technology which anticipates automatic stopping. They also indicated preferences and needs regarding introduction of any new system. The concepts and other results now form a solid basis for concept development and validation.