UK rail firm uses passengers’ weight to help people social distance

Southeastern has launched a new SeatFinder service that uses passengers’ weight to help people social distance.

The rail firm said that the technology already exists in many of its carriages, but it is the first operator to share the information with passengers.

The tool predicts the number of people on board on any given day by analysing the total weight carried in each carriage using data collected from the previous week.

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The weight data includes both passengers and their belongings, so is only an estimate, but it can give the public an indication of how busy a service is normally and help people plan their journeys for quieter times.

Users will be shown red, amber or green indicators according to the predicted available capacity.

This “will be set according to standards ensuring there is sufficient space for passengers to keep 2m or 1m apart whilst on board,” according to the rail firm.

The service will be rolled out from September and will be available on Southeastern’s app and journey planner website, as well as dedicated boards on station platforms.

The app and website will also show the type and status of on-board toilet facilities, while at the stations, the boards will show whether station toilet facilities or lifts are out of order.

Southeastern said SeatFinder covers 93 per cent of its stations and will be critical for commuters returning to offices and as schools reopen.

From 5 September, 98 per cent of Southeastern services will have been reinstated. The rail operator said it is also adding an extra 900 carriages and 50,000 seats to improve seat availability.

John Backway, head of retail at Southeastern, said: “The next couple of months will see many people returning to the railway network as schools and workplaces try to get back to a new normal. During this period, many of our regular passengers will want to adjust their travel patterns based on government guidance, so we’re pleased to be introducing this new solution to the rail sector that helps address this.

“Our teams at Southeastern have worked extremely hard to make the data available and accessible to help passengers plan their journeys and support social distancing to ensure they can be confident of a safe travel experience.”

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