Four rail operators - West Midlands Railway, London Northwestern Railway, Greater Anglia and South Western Railway - are trialling an early version of a new Passenger Assist smartphone app prior to national roll-out in 2020.
It will track movements of passengers with disabilities throughout journeys to enable station staff to respond better to booked requests for help in the event of cancellations, delays, platform changes or missed trains. Users will be able to alert staff by pressing a single button.
Currently, booked requests reach station staff via daily print-outs. In-house training, including the use of a new web portal, will start in early 2020. Meanwhile, passengers will be able to save time when booking by uploading their user profiles by end-2019.
Funded by operators' representative body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), the system is being developed by passenger transport technology specialist Transreport, who ran a regional 2017 pilot in the West Midlands.
An RDG spokesperson told Transport Network the national launch is later than originally announced because of intellectual property issues that arose during the development process.
RDG regional director Robert Nisbet added: 'It’s important to note that passengers will still be able to book using the national freephone number, textphone or online at disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk/travel-assistance. The new app is about providing more choice in booking, and is part of a wider project aimed at updating operators' back office systems'.
Transreport project manager Ara Shikhalislami told Transport Network: 'Among the technical challenges we've faced is ensuring protection of users' personal data'.