Public transport services have long involved more than simply carrying passengers. Reliable information on delays, cancellations or endangered connections are part of the clear customer requirements - which is why the Aare Seeland mobil AG (asm) decided to equip their stations and stops with a modern passenger information system.
Through a public tender, PSI Transcom GmbH was selected to implement a Customer Information System (CIS) to provide optical and audible information at stations and stops through a system based on their PSItraffic technology. The hardware- modern pillars with TFT monitors, loudspeakers and various function keys from the manufacturer EAO - and overhead LCD displays will be provided by PSI Transcom together with their long-term partner ib datentechnik, from Konstanz. The development of a new on-board computer posed an additional challenge.
The contract signing in February 2013 was followed by the creation of a specification sheet, solution development and configuration, and in November, the factory acceptance test. Here, asm was able to test all software components of the new system and introduce possible changes or additions. Hardware installation at the stations and stops was also completed in November, so that after a brief post-development period, the phased commissioning could already begin at the end of the year.
The first stage included 26 stations of the network in Oberaargau. The remaining stations and the Seeland stations followed in the second stages until the end of 2014. The most noticeable change for passengers was the newly erected information pillars. In addition to the usual poster displays, they also have a 32" TFT monitor to display current information on the trains and the operational status on the lines. A small computer controls both the customer information and the centrally-located keyboard. Customers can use this to perform three functions. One key makes a train stop request at request stops. Another launches the text to-speech function, which at the press of a button causes the monitor contents to be read aloud. A third key allows the customer to contact the control centre. At some stations, there are also overhead displays and loudspeakers providing the usual arrival and departure information.
Schedule data stored in PSItraffic says where trains should be at a particular time according to the schedule, but not where they actually are. "But we need to know this, for example to announce delays," says Daniel Fankhauser, head of Rolling Stock and Technology at asm. This information usually comes from rail traffic management systems like ILTIS. Although asm has the system, it is not fully developed, e.g. only for controlling gates. The control centre does not yet receive real-time information about the exact location of a train. For this, the Berliners had to design the new on-board computer required by the tender offer. They developed an app for a commercially available android mobile phone that continuously broadcasts the train's location data. Now, a mobile phone mounted as the on-board computer in every control stand sends the location and direction of travel every five seconds to the CIS control centre, where the data are processed and displayed. This gives the control centre a transparent view of operations in real-time, and deviations from the schedule can be seen on the time-distance diagram.
"This allows our dispatchers to recognize conflict situations and quickly initiate the necessary measures to ensure optimal operations," explains Fankhauser.
Passenger information can also be updated constantly - from delays, to partial or complete train cancellations, to the closure of sections of the line.
To ensure connections, it is now also planned to transfer the dynamic passenger information and data via a VDV-453 standard interface. This interface will carry data between a computer-controlled Intermodal Transport Control System (ITCS) and another ITCS or a datahub to inform transport partners if and which train is delayed. In the future, asm will transfer its data to the data hub Bern from which they can be accessed from the mobile real-time platform MEZI using a mobile phone via an app.
"PSItraffic enables dispatchers in the control centre to directly provide customers with information on all operational events. With this, we are presenting ourselves as a modern transport company that reliably and quickly informs its passengers about all operational events," summarizes Daniel Fankhauser.