ProRail using big data to predict where pedestrians cross tracks

Wednesday 6 December 2017 | 21:24 CET | News
Dutch operator ProRail is using big data to predict where pedestrians walk over tracks. ToeZine wrote about the 'tracker tool' app, which ProRail staff use with a map to reports on incidents along railways. The use of the app is supplemented with other data and predictions based on historical patterns.

ProRail employs incident fighters who drive around with a van every day to inspect the railway lines and overpasses in the Netherlands. These employees preventively check whether stations, stops and railway crossings are still in order and can be used in the event of accidents and collisions. Since 1 August of this year, all ProRail incident fighters can use the app on their tablet.

A track runner is anyone who gets on track in places where it is forbidden. Sometimes there is a hole in the fence made by walkers or local residents who want to cross a neighborhood faster. Sometimes people from a company or a school create a shorter route to the platform. And sometimes people walk across with the idea of suicide on their mind. The consequences are great: there are accidents with fatal consequences every year. But even if there is no injury, drivers give notifications and therefore everyone goes slower as a precaution, leading to delays.

ProRail has developed an app with a map of the Netherlands and all of its railways. The red dots on the map indicate where there are problems and what locations are most important. The operator reports are the most important data layer.

ProRail also adds information from public sources, such as the location of companies, schools and mental healthcare institutions, and forecasts, such as weather, school holidays and sports competitions. In the long term, the intention is for municipalities to also introduce local activities. All data is analysed for patterns. That predictive value still takes some getting used to, said an incident fighter of ten years. The app does not indicate reasons for a hotspot and incident fighters must therefore learn to not just rely on their experience and feeling.

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