Train tracking trials

Angie Thirkill with the new GPS train display at Lealholm Station''w111112   Picture: Ceri Oakes
Angie Thirkill with the new GPS train display at Lealholm Station''w111112 Picture: Ceri Oakes

TRAINS travelling to Whitby are to be involved in a new trial designed to keep passengers informed of their train’s exact location.

The GPS system is intended to let customers waiting on platforms know exactly when their train will arrive and provide greater confidence in the railway services of rural areas.

The £150,000 scheme uses commercial mobile phone technology to determine the train’s location and is being trialled on the entire Middlesbrough to Whitby Esk Valley line.

Electronic signs have been located at Whitby, Grosmont and Lealholm stations and provide up-to-date details of when the next train will arrive.

Rob Warnes, performance and planning director for Northern Rail, said: “We hope to give customers at rural stations the confidence that their train is going to arrive.

If they have that confidence they will use rail rather than do the journey in the car.”

The Esk Valley route currently uses Victorian signalling technology with huge information blackspots, including one between Nunthorpe and Whitby, where the train’s progress is not recorded for over an hour.

Carolyn Watson, external communications manager for Northern Rail said: “Although we know it’s on the track somewhere to Whitby we can’t find out exactly where without talking to the driver.

“The GPS technology is also potentially a more cost-effective way of keeping track of trains.

“The traditional signalling equipment is expensive to monitor and replace so if we can prove this works we will be able to pass the savings on back to the customer.”

The Esk Valley line has been chosen for the trial as it is typical of many rural routes on Northern Rail’s network due to there being no existing passenger information at these stations.

The route offers a full range of technical challenges including poor signal strength and is also a popular one with children travelling to and from school.

Mrs Watson added: “The next step will be putting it online for the public.

“If you are getting ready for school you will be able to look and see exactly where the train is and so get those extra two minutes in bed.”

Mr Warnes added: “There is that safety benefit in that if a train does get stranded somewhere we can see exactly where it is and we would be able to sort out the problem much quicker.”

The GPS tracking equipment has been supplied by Nomad Digital and fitted on 14 of Northern Rail’s Class 156 trains.