Rail innovation competition opens with £6m prize pot


A Government-backed competition to fuel innovation in the rail industry has opened with an expanded £6m prize fund.

Rail minister Claire Perry this week launched the second year of the industry-wide Train Operator Competition (TOC’15), urging the rail industry to shed its ‘sluggish’ approach to change with ‘genuinely innovative’ ideas.

Government funds for the TOC’15 have grown by £2.5m since organising body FutureRailway launched the first competition in 2014.

Financial support will be offered to help train operators and supply chains fund projects aimed at tackling industry challenges, including: enhancing customer experience, expanding capacity, reducing costs and cutting carbon emissions.

Ms Perry said she was keen to see funding shared between two or three significant projects rather than broken up into smaller amounts that could fail to deliver ‘tangible change’.

The minister also urged potential applicants to focus on problems affecting the customer, in particular blasting the ‘archaic’ process of ticket buying.

‘In this area, the railway seems to be light years behind other industries,’ Ms Perry said. ‘Passengers want a seamless experience: to find, buy, and get hold of the right ticket for their journey, at the best price, before proceeding with their journey. That should be the minimum requirement.’

Nevertheless she applauded work done by C2C on customer compensation, Abellio’s system for personalised responses to Tweets and its use of a contactless wristband for payment at Fenchurch Street Station.

‘Innovation is vital to the rail industry as passenger numbers and customer expectations continue to rise. Harnessing the latest technology and being creative in customer service hold the key to staying competitive,’ Ms Perry said.

A shortlist of funding bids for TOC’15 will be chosen to deliver presentations in front of an innovation board.

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