Northern Rail was struggling to manage passenger flow on its two busiest platforms in the station (13 and 14) and wanted to improve its customers’ experience of using Manchester Piccadilly station and to optimise safety measures wherever possible.
Due to the distance of platforms 13 and 14 from the main concourse, passengers found it difficult to get up-to-the-minute live train information and were reluctant to use the satellite lounge above the platforms in case they missed their train. This could result in overcrowding.
Existing Customer Information Screen (CIS) arrangements provided passengers with an expected arrival time, however these were frequently subject to change. This resulted in passengers mistrusting their reliability and preferring to wait on the platform.
We realised that if we could give passengers more detailed travel information within the satellite lounge than was available on digital display screens on the platform, they would be more likely to wait in the lounge.
We identified that an existing monitoring system could be used to create a visual tracking system for passengers, showing a train’s rough proximity and where it sat in the queueing system for Piccadilly.
We created a bespoke software application that would show the order that trains were going to arrive in, and give passengers clear instructions about when to make their way to the platform using a colour-coding system. To make the colour-coding memorable, we devised quirky messages like ‘if it’s blue, you have time for a brew’ to encourage passengers to relax and make use of shops/cafes in the satellite lounge.
We installed large 65” high bright digital display screens within the satellite lounge in a position that all passengers would see before heading to their platform. This ensured that the information was not just visible, but hard for any passenger to miss, deterring them for moving to the platform before being instructed to do so.
By using the tracking system, arrival times in the satellite lounge were more reliable than on the platform and less likely to change.
The new digital display screen and proximity information immediately modified passenger behaviour, encouraging more people to use the satellite lounge, and reducing overcrowding on platforms without the need for hard barriers or additional members of staff.
Sam Woolley, Project Manager for Northern Rail commented:
“This unique system complements the wider improvement project being undertaken at Manchester Piccadilly and has improved pedestrian flows and the utilisation of the customer lounge considerably. This solution has influenced passenger behaviour in a positive manner, decreased the stress experienced during a journey and is removing passenger anxiety and frustration”
"This is a modern solution to a typical railway question regarding ‘where the trains are’ and has caused significant buzz in the rail industry and is being looked at by other train operators to be used in other stations in the UK”.Sam Woolley, Project Manager, Northern Rail
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