A tool that is designed to provide rail users with better information during times of disruption won funding of £25,000 at this year’s HackTrain event


hacktrainDigital developers at work on the HackTrain


More than 120 digital developers from around the world took part in this year’s HackTrain event which brought together the rail industry and the technology community in a bid to stimulate new innovation.

The developers were challenged to come up with ideas and build working digital prototypes that will benefit the rail industry and its customers, whilst travelling on trains across Britain for three days.

Ideas hatched during the hackathon, which was supported by the Department for Transport and sponsored by the rail industry and other partners, ranged from disruption management tools to a taxi-sharing app and a system for giving disabled passengers advance platform information. 

Ten of the top teams presented their ideas at a post-hackathon event to a panel of judges including Jacqueline Starr, the Rail Delivery Group’s managing director of customer experience, along with senior representatives from train operators Chiltern Railways, GWR, South West Trains and Virgin Trains East Coast.

The winner was Disruption Feed which demonstrated how existing information about disruption could be restructured to make it machine readable and analysable. It won the team behind the tool a £25,000 investment in their start-up company through the HackTrain Accelerator Programme, which kicks off in the New Year.

“It is vital that we all, government, the rail industry and innovators, continue to explore fresh approaches to problems faced by the increasing demand on our railways,” commented rail minister Claire Perry.

“I welcome all the hard work and effort shown throughout the event. I look forward to seeing how their ideas will continue to develop into solutions we can implement.”




  • Disruption Feed demonstrated how existing information about disruption could be restructured to make it machine readable and analysable.  Applying their proposed structure to industry disruption information enables developers to build better tools for customers to negotiate disruption.

Runner up:

  • Trainilicious used data from CCTV on trains to count passengers in carriages combined with face and body recognition software to produce an app that would let train operators and customers see where seats are available in real time.

Third place:

  • Ticket produced an app designed to help customers understand which trains they can travel on with their ticket. By scanning the orange train ticket or QR code, the app calls an online journey planner to identify all train services for which the ticket is valid.

Other ideas:

  • Goodthings (come to those who wait) is an app to influence travel behaviour by incentivising passengers to take a different (less crowded) train. Free coffee?
  • Traxi offered integrated taxi sharing, connecting customers on board a train with others who want to share a taxi to the same/similar destination
  • WaveRoll uses ibeacons to count the number of mobile signals in a carriage to give a real-time loading value for each carriage.
  • Rail Assist provides early notification of platform numbers to disabled people and connects assisted travellers with staff on the station.


This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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