Southeastern trains are launching a facility to know when trains are likely to be busy, or quieter, to help people plan for their socially distanced journeys.
The SeatFinder service updates daily, using train loading information from the previous week. The technology, which is built into many of its carriages, predicts the number of passengers on-board by analysing weight.
It’s therefore, and estimate, and not live data, but commuting patterns are often fairly routine, so the predictions about train loading can have some use if you are able to shift your commute time – as little as ten minutes can have an often surprising impact.
The carriage capacity indicators will be set according to standards ensuring there is sufficient space for passengers to keep 2m or 1m apart whilst on-board.
Southeastern says that is the first train operator in the UK to collate its train capacity information in this way and share it directly with passengers — although Thameslink trains also carry passenger loading data, that’s only available on the train itself and helps you find a quieter carriage.
Southeastern said that it will make the train loading predictions available through rail industry open data feeds so that third-party developers can access it.
The service will be rolled out more widely on Southeastern’s app and journey planner website in September. This will also include data to highlight the type and status of on-board toilet facilities.
From 5th September, Southeastern’s timetable will be back to almost pre-Covid levels, with 98% of services running. Seat availability will also be improved, with Southeastern adding an extra 900 carriages and 50,000 seats.