Stobart wins big at Rail Customer Experience awards

September 23, 2013 by Peter MacLeod
Stobart wins big at Rail Customer Experience awards

The Stobart Group emerged as the freight category winner in the recent 2013 Rail Customer Experience Competition for its 'Stobart Express' innovation.

All the winners were announced at the Final Live Event, held at the 15Hatfields venue near London's South Bank.

The event was the pinnacle of the £1m prize-bearing competition, led by the rail industry’s Enabling Innovation team, which looked for innovative solutions to transform the passenger and freight customer experience within GB rail in areas of service culture, business process, journey planning, seamless journey experience and design of facilities.

In total, 16 finalists from 111 entries were involved in the Final Live Event, competing for a total purse of £300,000 in cash prizes, plus the opportunity to bid for funding from a total investment pool of £700,000.

In addition to a 10-minute pitch, each finalist had a private Q&A session with a panel of expert judges that provided the finalists with an opportunity to lay bare their business idea, identify its strengths and weaknesses, and take this knowledge gained to work and improve upon it. After careful deliberation, the winners were decided by the respective judging panels and announced at the evening’s award ceremony.

The Rail Freight Customer Challenge was won by the Stobart Group for its ‘Stobart Express’ innovation, involving high speed trains and/or small modular load units combined with low-emission road delivery vehicles, to enable fast and low-emission door-to-door distribution of multiple small-volume loads, to local stores, other business premises and residential properties. The runner-up in this Challenge was FreightArranger.

In the Regular Rail Passenger Challenge, which addressed the experience of regular rail passengers such as commuters, Caution Your Blast and Ayoupa won with its mobile app - ‘Commuter Intelligent Passenger’. This offers real-time journey monitoring on intermodal door-to-door journeys and personalised information, advice and alerts from its intelligent predictive capabilities. The two runners-up in this Challenge were Jeppesen and Gerrit Boehm.

The Discretionary Rail Passenger Challenge, which tackled more occasional passengers’ experience, was won by 3Squared with its ‘Station Master’ smartphone app, taking the concept of route planning provided by popular apps such as Google Maps and applying this technology and concept to station layouts - enabling tourists and those with impairments to find platforms, amenities and access routes. The two runners-up in this Challenge were Capito Systems and 4ward Thinking.

The ‘Cross-over Prize’, rewarding exceptional proposals that transferred innovations developed for another application to the rail industry, was awarded to routeRANK. Having already successfully applied its innovation and technology in the travel industry, routeRANK provides a software solution for freight transport planning. Incorporating road, sea and air transport data, its ‘Integrated Rail Freight Planner’ would be able to compute multi-modal shipment route options and propose real-time alternatives in the case of disruption.

In addition to the pitches, there was a discussion panel on the barriers to innovation in achieving a seamless end-to-end journey, featuring David Clarke from EIT, John Boon from Network Rail, Richard Kemp-Harper from the Technology Strategy Board, Sharon Hedges from Passenger Focus, Geoff Inskip from Centro and chaired by InnoCentive’s Jonathan Slater. David Simoes-Brown, Founder and Strategy Partner at 100% Open, and Ian Downey, the UK Ambassador for ESA's Integrated Applications Promotion programme, joined as the keynote speakers for the day.

Altogether, it demonstrated the high capacity for innovation amongst the world’s entrepreneurs and indicated a promising future for customer experience on the GB railway. By bringing together rail and non-rail sectors, there was significant opportunity for knowledge exchange and drawing new talent into rail. Winners will now go on to bid for funding from the £700,000 investment pool.

David Clarke, Director of EIT, congratulated all the winners as well as everyone else who had taken part in the competition: "For the winners, this is a tremendous opportunity to kick-start some really significant concepts and turn them into a commercial reality that can be applied full-scale on the railway. There’s a diversity in the nature of rail customers both in freight and passengers, and the variety in the responses to this challenge truly reflects this: there is no 'one size fits all' for rail customers and I was particularly pleased to see a number of truly cross-modal proposals which recognise that rail customers are in fact transport customers.

"This has been a really successful competition and it’s a great case study for any doubter out there that wonders whether we’ve really got any innovation waiting in the wings worth discovering."

The competition forms part of the portfolio of activities to unlock innovation led by the Enabling Innovation Team (EIT) on behalf of the Technical Strategy Leadership Group, for the rail industry to fulfil its 30-year vision for a world-class national rail system, building and deploying the best innovation, technology, people, principles and processes.

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