Bristol Temple Meads to become testbed for passenger tech

Posted on: 18/10/2022
Passengers at rail station

A multi-million pound programme will turn Bristol Temple Meads into the UK’s first ‘Station Innovation Zone’, trialling new technologies designed to upgrade passengers’ experience.

Connected Places Catapult, the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport, and place leadership, and Network Rail, have announced that Bristol’s iconic train station is to host trials of innovative passenger technologies thanks to a new partnership between Network Rail and Connected Places Catapult.

The programme is selecting start-ups aiming to test new ways to improve various aspects of the passenger experience: from making journeys smoother with smarter ticketing, to making stations more accessible with wayfinding apps; from using AI to improve people flow, to designing better facilities using human-centred design principles.

The Catapult is directing millions of pounds of Innovate UK funding into the programme, which sees Bristol Temple Meads named as the UK’s first Station Innovation Zone. The five-year programme will pioneer the approach, and plans are in place to roll out the model to other stations as it succeeds.

Indro Mukerjee, CEO, Innovate UK said: “Innovate UK is strongly committed to partnerships to deliver future transport systems that are connected, accessible, sustainable, and safe. So, we see this partnership between our Connected Places Catapult and Network Rail as an important step to support delivery of passenger technology for the future.”

Francis McGarry, Network Rail Wales & Western region Investment Director, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Connected Places Catapult on this new programme which will provide SMEs with crucial funding opportunities and Network Rail with new, innovative ideas on how to further enhance the experience of our passengers.

“We are committed to developing Bristol Temple Meads into a world class transport hub for the benefit of our passengers, the city of Bristol and wider West of England region, so it is fitting Bristol Temple Meads has been chosen as the UK’s first Station Innovation Zone.”

Nicola Yates, CEO, Connected Places Catapult, said: “Innovation is tough in any industry, and rail is especially hard because of the number of assessments and permissions required. The net effect is that it takes too much time and costs too much for most small businesses to engage. Partnering with Network Rail to create a multi-year Station Innovation Zone in Bristol’s vibrant Temple Quarter will enable us to support numerous small companies in navigating these challenges and benefit passengers’ experience of the station.”

Applications are open now for start-ups with ideas that could be trialled in the Station Innovation Zone. Passengers are likely to see the first trials beginning early next year.

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