Talk with Esther Bravo
Program Manager at Shift2Rail
Eu-wide Mobility Services

When travelling across Europe, passengers are obliged to visit different digital platforms to find the best options, understand what transport services are available locally, and manage the trip directly with individual operators.

To iron out this complexity, Innovation Programme 4 (IP4) at the European Joint Undertaking Shift2Rail is working on an ecosystem that meets customer needs for door-to-door travel that is seamless, multimodal, and European-wide. This goal should boost the appeal of travelling by rail, making it a platform to integrate other modes of transport, one of the objectives of the overall Shift2Rail programme (see box).

Building a digital ecosystem to change the way we travel

Shift2Rail’s IP4 is building a digital ecosystem to change the way passengers use transport. With a single click they will be able to book and pay for multimodal trips across Europe that meet their specific needs. Bypassing the ‘behind-the-scene’ complexity of the many systems involved will be another welcome benefit. “The mobility of the future is linked to technology. IP4 will shorten distances and transform travellers into mobility followers by improving the experience at every step of the journey,” says Esther Bravo, IP4 Programme Manager at Shif2Rail Joint Undertaking.

This concept is expected to radically change the way people travel in Europe, making railways and public transport at large more attractive. Ultimately, it could also help boost the use of public transport, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) and particle emissions, and road congestion too.

With these goals in mind, IP4 researchers believe their ecosystem will make real the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) approach – a shift from ‘individual transport modes’ towards a world of ‘mobility solutions’ provided and consumed as a service. Today’s services allow the traveller to check different solutions available, mostly in a local environment. IP4’s ecosystem however will offer new capabilities to the traveller, developing a potential European wide-system to book, shop, track, and look for alternatives in case of travel disruption, as well as benefitting from other functionalities such as location-based experiences.

To achieve this, Shift2Rail is integrating and interfacing with other initiatives under the lead of the European Commission, which has similar technical goals, but at sectorial level, such as the Telematics Application for Passenger-TSI in railways, supported by Directive 2008/57/EC.

About Shift2Rail

With a €920 million budget over seven years, about half of which is publicly funded by the EU, Shift2Rail is contributing towards cutting the life-cycle costs of rail transport by as much as 50%, doubling railway capacity, and increasing reliability and punctuality by as much as 50%.

“We are bringing to IP4 our experiences in app design, calculating journeys, and the handling of real-time information to name a few, with the aim of developing beyond state-of-the-art solutions.”

The MaaS ecosystem – all aboard!

Built on IP4 technologies, Shift2Rail is creating ‘roaming capabilities’ for any MaaS application to join a wider mobility ecosystem, which takes all available European transport modes into account: ‘traditional’ public transport such as trains, trams, metro systems, and buses; taxis; the private car: and ‘new modes’ such as bike-, car-, and ride-sharing, as well as also on-demand services.

The approach involves different modules and functionalities. Through an ‘Interoperability Framework’ (IF), different systems can interoperate without changes to their interfaces or technical system. IT technologies that make use of semantic allow for a sufficiently easy implementable way to ensure interoperability.

Through Shift2Rail’s ‘Interoperability Framework’, travel service providers can ‘smoothly’ connect with the IP4 ecosystem, with seamless links between them, the journey planner, and the shopping or booking components.

Source: Shift2Rail

Travel Companion interface

Previous Shift2Rail projects have already developed components with a limited scope, focusing on co-modal travelling, where each travel service provider is responsible for their own travel segments. Research is now focusing on improving the performance and scalability of the system to foster its wide deployment. Researchers are simplifying all the necessary steps for integrating new services and will provide relevant scenarios to support the ‘MaaS’ approach.

The passenger interface for accessing multimodal trip offers is the ‘Travel Companion’. This personal application allows travellers to fully manage their multimodal journeys – from preparation to travel to after-trip operations.

They can book tickets, store them in digital format, and modify trip itineraries according to real-time information provided in the case of any disruptions. Users will also be able to customise their preferences to obtain offers adapted to their profiles, while fully complying with the legal requirements concerning privacy and the protection of personal data. This ‘smart companion’ is designed for travel service providers (TSP) too, allowing them to share information with their customers.

Moreover, by using the platform, travellers will have access to additional services like ordering meals and buying items on-board across the multimodal journey. Through the tracking function, other extras could include location-based experiences to inform and entertain during trips, as well as guidance on the next segment of travel, including indoor guidance in stations. All these functions should radically change passengers’ travel experiences… for the better!

“From trip planning to mobile ticketing and services during trips, today’s consumers expect products that cover all aspects of ITS providing ultimate end user experience,” says Executive Director Lars Deiterding from IP4 member HaCon, a Siemens company. “We are bringing to IP4 our experiences in app design, calculating journeys, and the handling of real-time information to name a few, with the aim of developing beyond state-of-the-art solutions.”

Disruptions no longer a problem with the Travel Companion!

Booking and issuing tickets via a single platform that combines several modes of transport, several operators, and several countries, is a complex task. Concealing this complexity from Travel Companion end users calls for perfect orchestration among the legacy systems of the different TSPs. With this aim in mind, specific functions of the ecosystem for ‘shopping, booking and ticketing’ have been developed to allow parallel interactions and dialogue with each of the separately contracted TSPs. They apply the necessary logic to integrate this information and overcome problems such as a system failure by one of the providers involved.

Another essential feature in the Travel Companion is the ‘Trip Tracker’, a tool providing travellers with personalised information on their multimodal journeys. The software can both detect and predict service disruptions based on real-time-information. Users then receive messages proposing the best alternatives for completing their trips.

The Travel Companion demonstrator was presented by Shift2Rail on its stand at InnoTrans 2018, the world’s largest international trade fair for rail transport technology, and received a high level of interest.

The IP4 platform will show the benefits of this new mobility approach at three different demonstration sites in Europe: Lisbon, Malaga and a Central East Corridor. The next step will be to demonstrate the IP4 MaaS platform at InnoTrans 2020.

‘Smart’ asset management and stations of the future

The next-generation asset management system also under development by Shift2Rail will also contribute to smoother multimodal travel. It incorporates, for example, predictive models that use measured operational data from infrastructure assets.

This information can then be used to deliver higher timetable punctuality rates and predict disruptions when maintenance is needed. The Trip Tracker demonstrator functionality would report this information to passengers’ smartphones so that they can easily revise their journey plans, if necessary.

Train stations with enhanced crowd management, accessibility to trains from the platform, and improved station designs and components, improvements all under development as part of the Shift2Rail programme, will help too. Trip Tracker will take these aspects into consideration for their travel offers to deliver more comfortable, more accessible, and safer journey experiences for passengers at tomorrow’s stations.

“In a world where the digitization is increasingly important for business and the personal life of consumers, information technology is becoming a key enabler for boosting the appeal of rail services and improving their connection with other modes,” says Leyre Merle, R&D Project Manager at Indra. “One of our objectives as an IP4 partner is to take advantage of technical trends, such as digitalization, cloud computing, big data, semantics and real time and personalized information, to deliver a greater business value for operators and travellers.”

How does it work for travel service providers?

Shift2Rail’s IP4 IF will allow providers and mobility services to join the ecosystem without the need to change their legacy systems, which will reduce implementation costs. Moreover, tickets for each trip segment can be generated via the platform, which also distributes corresponding payments to each TSP through the integration of a Payment Service Provider and a Virtual Credit Card option.

Moreover, each TSP can check its associated payments through a specific interface, in addition to the specific platform, which manages the rules for shopping and clearing phases, e.g. as multimodal discounts.

By participating in this innovation programme, Shift2Rail members and non-members are working together to build the future of mobility.