Big data is analytical gold dust for governments, industry and rail companies who – for example – might be planning major infrastructure or ordering or leasing millions of pounds’ worth of carriages and rolling stock. For rail users, though, it can be a case of drowning in too much information. 

Indeed, for passengers who want to know whether they will be home in time for that night’s episode of Broadchurch, big data probably isn’t going to be much help. Between its vast and unlimited abstracts and the very real and specific needs of individual rail users, there is a gap for tailored, targeted and focused information. 
Big data isn’t worth a bean unless we can translate its digital lexicon into a language we can all access and understand.

Glow New Media, an award-winning mobile app developer and web design agency, has been translating big data into big ideas for more than a decade. In 2016, its winning response to a national rail industry competition saw it develop a user-friendly app using data drawn from Darwin, the rail industry’s big data resource which tracks and predicts every train movement in the UK.
Glow set out to use Darwin’s huge data sets to design an app which would directly address the most significant factor in determining a customer’s overall satisfaction with their journey: their perception of the punctuality and reliability of their service.

The result was the app, My Train Journey. The app connects rail customers with intelligently translated data from Darwin, allowing them to see the punctuality and reliability record of every train service in Britain for any period up to one year. It maximises the potential of the real-time, always-on connectivity that smartphone and tablet devices give us, allowing customers to make better on-the-move choices about their journeys based on real-time information.

Since it launched in summer 2016, My Train Journey has since been downloaded close to 20,000 times. Explaining the success of the app, Phil Blything, director of Glow New Media said: “My Train Journey is helping rail customers across the network make better choices about their journeys based on the real-time data that they have at their fingertips.  
“Tailored, easy access to relevant information vastly improves the customer experience and increases customer loyalty, both of which are crucial for the long-term sustainability of the public transport network.”
Claire Perry MP, former Rail Minister echoed that view. Speaking at the launch of My Train Journey, she said: “Our plan for passengers is to build a 21st Century railway that provides better journeys for all, and innovative new apps like My Train Journey have an important role to play in delivering this. I’ve been clear that I want to see the industry improve the information it gives to customers, and this is a positive step in helping to ensure passengers are at the heart of everything the rail industry does.”

So Big Data, Big Potential. The digitalisation of the railway is an opportunity to deliver better, faster, more tailored information, ultimately to create more intelligent railways. By allowing easy access to big data on punctuality and reliability, apps like My Train Journey are enabling customers to maximise their efficient use of the train network, to the benefit of the long-term feasibility and sustainability of the UK’s railway network.

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