Nomad Digital, the transport communications provider, has completed a roll-out of free passenger WiFi and Infotainment systems on-board all 135 of DSB's S-trains in Denmark. The state-owned rail operator decided to equip all Metropolitan S-trains in Denmark's capital Copenhagen with wireless internet, after a study revealed that real-time traffic information was the number one request among its daily 220,000 passengers. The survey found that even in the event of trains being delayed, complaints would be minimised and customer satisfaction raised by providing accurate, up-to-the-minute information: on new times of arrival; connecting traffic and service alterations etc.
"A delay is not experienced as problematic, if we help the customer by telling them how they move on from the next station," said Niklas Marschall of DSB. "Before, we sometimes had announcements contradicting what was displayed on screens. And we'd rather let people know if there's time to grab a coffee and a Danish (pastry), to make their journey more satisfying."
The rail operator wanted ultimately to improve the passenger experience and see an increase in passenger numbers, customer satisfaction and loyalty. A share of internet revenues from commercials on Infotainment screens and the onboard internet portal was regarded as a bonus.
Now, DSB not only provides more reliable information via 2806 screens and displays on its trains, but 90,000 unique users have already logged onto the DSB portal in the last four months to gain free internet access. The portal acts as a direct means for the company to get closer to the customer: as well as providing train information, it also promotes other news, including marketing offers and promotions. For instance, in signing up for the free on-board internet, you also automatically opt-in for DSB's loyalty club and newsletter – something many customers appreciate, given discounts on cultural offers on Friday's; or taking a bike for free.
Entertainment is provided in the form of rolling news and commercial entertainment while real-time passenger information provides regular updates on connecting services - including other train and bus companies that operate along the way.
Continuous connectivity via the internet also means that the train operator can constantly monitor its trains. This could, for instance, be used for passenger counting systems, automatically syncing with the passenger announcements - weight measurements taken remotely could be used to alert passengers whether to go to different parts of the train: a red carriage denoting that it's full; while a green one shows there's plenty of space left.
This type of real-time monitoring of trains not only improves the operating efficiencies for the company – such as optimising braking systems and reducing maintenance costs and fuel consumption – but also serves to direct passengers to less crowded carriages where there's more chance of getting a seat during busy rush-hour services. Trains can even be prioritised on account of being fuller - or deemed more important - helping to avoid bottlenecks and minimising overall disruptions to passengers.
"In the event of delays you have to tell passengers immediately and look for solutions," said Marschall. "For example, by not stopping at a particular station due to traffic problems, we can optimise the service and ensure more trains are on time, so less people inconvenienced."
Free internet pays
The free broadband internet is also clearly something the public appreciates on train journeys. 0ver 5,000 new users are joining each week, and demand is expected to rise as passengers increasingly seek broadband access for their laptops and smartphones. And thanks to a modest amount of discreet third-party advertising on the portal, the service gets a financial supplement, he added.
Improved security is another benefit of the new wireless system. Trains can be tracked to see where exactly they are. Even passengers are under increased scrutiny after recent anti-terrorism measures have given new powers to the police for access to information about internet data and passenger movements, if required. Continuous connectivity to the internet makes this a reality.
The new internet system for the entire DSB S-trains fleet was rolled-out in just under five months, going live during the summer of 2012. The next step involves the continued development of content for the screens and onboard portal, not to mention keeping check on the rising demands for bandwidth.