Trainspiration – Around England on HackTrain 2.0

The Challenge

HackTrain Hackathon – 3 days on a train developing innovative solutions and solving problems of British railway industry.

3 trains, 3 routes, 3 topics: customer experience, infrastructure, big data.

Challenges expressed by railway companies (GWR, Virgin Trains East Coast, Southwest Trains, Eversholt Trains), Department for Transport, solution providers (SilverRail, The Trainline), and others affect the railway system and customers in a dramatic way. Presented and explained on Friday in St.Pancras Renaissance Hotel, those are informing about disruptions, explaining tickets, overcrowding, assisted travel.

The Train

I ended up on Customer train going London-Bristol-Oxford-London-York. 30 hackers, 20 ideas pitched, 10 projects selected.

Venues we worked at: GWR and Virgin trains, Hilton Double Tree, Bristol, Jam Factory, Oxford, Escalator, Whitechapel, and the final presentations at National Railway Museum, York.

The Project

After a few hours struggling with the problem of choice between «yes, this is the real business problem to be solved» and «this is so cool, I’d really love to do that», I have finally formed a team with Larry (tech guy) and Sarah (awesome designer) to work on a project that didn’t solve challenges set by the industry but was just so cool.

Project SeeMore is about augmenting customer experience on a train by providing handful and interesting information about objects passed by on a route. Jeremy – the mentor – told us GWR used to provide similar experience to their passengers back in 1920s – with a book «Looking Through the Window». We talked to people on a train from Bristol to Oxford and 100% of responders said they’d love to have this again, but within an app.

In the age of digital transformation, it is essential to provide customer information at the right time, in the right place, in the right context.

So we prototyped the app feeding passengers with useful information and the opportunity for railway companies to increase their revenue up to 30% by upselling train tickets and cross-selling event tickets on a train.

Project description is available on Devpost.

At the end we haven’t won the finals but were approached by the industry later with the interest being expressed in further development of the project. Isn’t that even better than prizes?

HackTrain was the best hackathon I’ve ever been to – kudos to organizers River and Alejandro and massive support from the industry.