7 years, 2 months ago

Putting data to good use

Travel by train is great, especially in the Netherlands. We have one of the best train systems in the world in terms of density and comfort (with a bit of a hard time when the leaves start falling, or when we have serious snow). Of course there are a lot of complaints about delays, crowded trains and incidents but after 10+ years of almost daily travel by train I can safely say that were doing pretty well.

From a business perspective there are some interesting challenges for railway companies though.These are mostly related to capacity and spread of the population:

  • There is a massive peak in the (early) morning and around dinner time. A lot less people travel during the rest of the day (because theyre supposed to be at work or in school)
  • Parts of the country (especially the North) is not so densely populated which makes certain lines less profitable in that area. However: the train system only functions well if even those remote areas have a good service as well

I believe the rail way companies (most prominently: NS) have all the data-ingredients to make life easier for us. Consider the following screenshot from the iPad version of the route planner:

This pretty much what you expect from a travel planner: different travel options, what type of service you have, departure times and an indicator of how busy it is in the train (highlighted in red). It appears that this latter bit of information is hardly used, however!

Lets consider data collection first. A few years ago, we started using cards rather than paper tickets for travel: you charge the card and then check in/out whenever you enter/leave a train station. This is a great and pretty reliable source of information! It may not be perfect, but definitely a good enough indicator of how busy a train is at any given time and this can be quiet valuable.

As a business traveler, I wouldnt mind travelling a little longer / taking a little detour / leaving a little earlier if I can be assured of a quiet place to sit. However, as a parent with no car, I tend to choose the shortest, quickest route from A to B. So lets put this data to good use! I think the travel planner should get some additional functionality that allows us to let it look for trips where there is a bigger chance we can actually sit! This will surely have a positive impact on customer satisfaction, and may even prevent pesky headlines