On board entertainment: the tech keeping passengers on the rails

To keep passengers occupied, many railway operators have begun to introduce technology to offer onboard entertainment, allowing travellers to choose from a variety of films, games and magazines, or to track their journey in real time. From QR codes to a tailor-made connectivity system, Ilaria Grasso Macola explores some of the solutions rail operators are choosing to use.

In2017 Glyn Pierce-Jones, group managing editor at safety technology company Trolex Group, announced that technology had made it clear passengers were no longer just looking for the transport system to get them from A to B, but wanted a more exciting experience.

Rail, he argued, had to embrace the change and use technology and give customers a more entertaining and connected experience.

Four years have passed since then and the industry has been receptive; in that time both companies and rail operators have invested heavily in ways to keep their passengers entertained and informed.

Here we round up some of the most interesting solutions companies and railway operators have developed to make train journeys unique for passengers.

Network Rail CEO Andrew Haines. Credit: Network Rail

Whoosh – using QR to enhance passenger-operator communications 

British software company Whoosh has recently launched a real-time journey dashboard, which is expected to enhance communication on trains using Quick Response (QR) codes.

Whoosh dashboards – which are installed on passenger seats and provide real-time information – are expected to improve customer experience. By scanning their unique QR code, passengers will be able to access information about the service, stations and the general journey.

Not reliant on Wi-Fi connectivity, the Real-Time Journey Dashboard improves communications between operator and passenger, allowing travellers who need help to request assistance. On the operator side, Whoosh says the technology will save costs while enhancing Disability Discrimination Act compliance, which makes it mandatory for all companies to offer disabled access.

“From our roots in developing award-winning, at-seat entertainment, we saw the desire for a real-time information sharing, two-way communication enabling and ultimately stress-reducing platform,” commented Whoosh CEO and founder Edmund Caldecott.

“We’re incredibly passionate about championing the good things about rail travel and working closely with operators to transform the passenger journey experience with the Real-Time Journey Dashboard.

“We’ve all seen a resurgence of QR use during the pandemic, and what was once a somewhat side-lined technology has really come into its own,” he added. “Along with the rich capabilities and real-time information provided, it’s the QR element of the Real-Time Journey Dashboard really makes it stand out by enabling bespoke live content access like no other platform.”

European railways gen z

The rail sector is an important component in a greener future. Credit: Antoine Beauvillain | Unsplash.

Moment – bespoke rail connectivity 

French entertainment and digital services company Moment designed and installed a multimedia platform specifically for the rail industry.

Their solution – which operates without connectivity – allows passengers to connect their electronic devices to different services, enabling railway operators to personalise their offers.

Through the platform, which was launched in 2019, passengers can access multimedia content as well have easier communications with the operator, accessing a range of activities from booking taxis to ordering meals onboard.

“With this new offering developed for the rail sector, we want to help railway companies meet the digital challenge and transform the perception of rail journeys, making them an exclusive and relaxing moment,” says Moment CEO and co-founder Tanguy Morel.

Moment technology will support our forward-looking digital strategy.

More recently, the platform was tailored and adopted by OUIGO, the French low-cost TGV service for its Paris to Lyon route.

“Moment’s expertise and disruptive approach have proven to be decisive in implementing this new service in record time,” said OUIGO Paris-Lyon project manager Nicolas Launay. “Moment technology will support our forward-looking digital strategy, tailor-made for OUIGO customers and the specifics of a low-cost business model.”

“Entertainment services associated with a catalogue of personalised content bring strong added value to the connectivity offering provided to passengers”, said Morel at the time. “This collaboration confirms Moment’s positioning as a key technological partner in this sector as rail companies seek to offer new services, even for a fee, to maintain their price competitiveness.”

GoMedia – partnering with SBB and Eurostar 

Swiss railway operator SBB adopted a new information and entertainment system provided by London-based company GoMedia.

The system – which was implemented on SBB international fleet covering Germany, Switzerland and Italy last year – allowed customers to access entertainment in four different language – including films, TV shows and games, as well as journey information.

“This deal marks a proud moment for GoMedia, launching with SBB, one of the continent's leading train operators,” said GoMedia managing director Roger Matthews.

“We're excited to build upon our work in the UK, and bring real-time journey information to European travellers, allowing them to feel more informed about their journey, and in turn, improving the customer experience."

This was not the first time rail operators have used GoMedia’s technology. In July 2019, the company won a contact with Eurostar to broaden the operator’s on-board infotainment for passengers travelling between London and mainland Europe.

We are always looking for ways to extend the capabilities of our services.

“We are always looking to improve the customer experience, and our extended partnership with GoMedia will offer travellers a broader range of content to relax and unwind to whilst travelling at high-speed,” said Eurostar digital content strategy manager Sive Hughes.

Originally launched in 2016, the platform was made for Eurostar’s new fleet of e320 trains. The solution used digital rights management system, providing access to games as well as films and magazines, and integrating Google Maps.

“Eurostar was one of our very first customers, so we are extremely happy to be extending our relationship with them to enhance and develop the passenger experience,” commented Matthews.

“We are always looking for ways to extend the capabilities of our services by sourcing the latest films, TV shows, news and gaming, and look forward to extending our offering with Eurostar in the future.”

Main image: Passengers can access Whoosh’s Real-Time Journey Dashboard with just a QR code. Credit: Whoosh.