Netherlands Railways Leverages Sensor Technology to Improve Traveler Experience and Optimize Operations

In the Netherlands, rail passenger transport has grown considerably during the last decades. Parallel to the increase in passenger numbers, train stations have transformed to places where people travel and perform activities, such as working, shopping and holding meetings. The combination means that the space is shared by more and more people. As capacity expansion is extremely expensive due to the dense urban environment in which these stations are situated, the need for valid passenger behavioral data to reduce bottlenecks and Improve travellers comfort and safety, is very important.

To measure, understand and improve the complex visitor flows at Amsterdam Centraal, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol train station, Utrecht Central station and Leiden Central station, Netherlands Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen / NS) – the largest train and station operator in the Netherlands – has turned to the data collection solution BlipTrack from Denmark-based BLIP Systems.

Installed and organized by Royal HaskoningDHV, the solution provides NS with accurate passenger route and activity location choice behavior data, such as:
1. Time spent in station before departure and after arrival
2. Time spent by non-travelers
3. Time spent on escalators, platforms, in retail and other station facilities
4. Distribution of passengers on departing and arriving platforms, and transfers to/from platforms
5. Entrance / exit usage

The data enables the train stations to add value of existing facilities and/or new investments, optimize operations, and improve the passenger flow. Ensuring an easy passage through the stations significantly increases the traveler experience and is key to unlocking potential gains, such as recurring passengers and increased non-transportation revenue.

The solution works by placing sensors at strategic points within the station. The sensors detect mobile devices, such as mobile phones. By re-identifying the devices at multiple sensors, movement patterns, travel times and visitor occupancy can be measured and calculated—from the moment visitors arrive at train station, to boarding the train, and everywhere in between. Importantly, the solution does not send or track any personal information; it simply monitors the number of mobile phone signals in a given area.

With this information, management is provided with specific and accurate statistical information on the use of retail and facilities, enabling the station to optimize each and every area to operate optimally.

In addition to measuring passengers at Dutch train stations, BlipTrack is successfully employed in optimization efforts in more than 25 international airports, including Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, JFK Airport in New York, Toronto Pearson, Dubai, El-Prat Airport in Barcelona, Dulles Airport in Washington, Copenhagen, Oslo, Malpensa and Linate Airports in Milano, Manchester, Brussels, Dublin, San Diego, Helsinki, Auckland, Montreal, Genève, Birmingham, Bristol, Brussels South Charleroi, Keflavik, Billund and Aalborg. The solution is also implemented in road traffic in Switzerland, New Zealand, USA, UK, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Canada and Ireland. In recent years, the solution has also been rolled out in ports in Denmark and UK, ski resorts in USA, amusement parks, and at events all over the world.

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