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.

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3 comments on “Southeastern service predicts if trains are quiet or busy
  1. Nice idea.

    Out of interest, what’s the 2% of trains that SouthEastern won’t be running?

  2. Chris Wood says:

    It may be the first in the UK, but Swiss Railways have been providing this information on their travel planning web site and app since at least 2014. So I guess the real question is what took them so long.

  3. Harry says:

    “The technology, which is built into many of its carriages, predicts the number of passengers on-board by analysing weight.”

    So why does it only update “daily, using train loading information from the previous week” ?

    Though this can be useful for advance planning, another good use of loading information would be to calculate the loading of each carriage as the train leaves each station and to display the information in real time at the next 2 or 3 stations along the route, so the passengers already on the station know where best to wait.

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