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Bristol Temple Meads named UK’s first Station Innovation Zone

Bristol Temple Meads named UK’s first Station Innovation Zone
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Bristol Temple Meads railway station has been named the UK’s first Station Innovation Zone.

Isambard Brunel’s station has been an icon of railway architecture since it was built for the Great Western Railway in 1840. Around 10 million passengers continue to use the station every year, a testament to Brunel’s lasting impact on the city of Bristol.

To continue serving passengers for centuries to come, Temple Meads will have to adopt new technologies that improve the experience.

Connected Places Catapult – the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport, and place leadership – has partnered with Network Rail to announce that Temple Meads will be the first station to trial innovative passenger technologies.

Francis McGarry, Network Rail Wales & Western region Investment Director, commented:

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Connected Places Catapult on this new programme which will provide SMEs with crucial funding opportunities and Network Rail with new, innovative ideas on how to further enhance the experience of our passengers.

We are committed to developing Bristol Temple Meads into a world-class transport hub for the benefit of our passengers, the city of Bristol, and the wider West of England region, so it is fitting Bristol Temple Meads has been chosen as the UK’s first Station Innovation Zone.”

Millions of pounds of funding for the programme will come from the UK government’s Innovate UK initiative.

Nicola Yates OBE, CEO of Connected Places Catapult, said:

“Innovation is tough in any industry and rail is especially hard because of the number of assessments and permissions required. The net effect is that it takes too much time and costs too much for most small businesses to engage.

Partnering with Network Rail to create a multi-year Station Innovation Zone in Bristol’s vibrant Temple Quarter will enable us to support numerous small companies in navigating these challenges and benefit passengers’ experience of the station.”

The kind of ideas being sought includes those which make stations more accessible with wayfinding apps, the use of AI to improve the flow of passengers, and smarter ticketing.

Here are the three ‘challenge areas’ the initiative is looking for solutions to solve:

  • Safe Station – How might we enhance safety at the station through improved station operations? 
  • Seamless Station – How might we improve the provision of customer information, by tailoring it to passengers’ needs and adapting it at times of disruption? 
  • Social Station – How might the station be a great place to spend time for passengers and local communities, whilst functioning as a transport hub? 

Winning applicants will receive funding, access to tailored expertise, technical support, testbed support, and the ability to promote your solution to investors, industry, and potential customers.

“We are delighted that Connected Places Catapult and Innovate UK have chosen Bristol Temple Meads as the country’s first Station Innovation Zone,” commented Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees.

“Temple Meads is at the heart of Temple Quarter, and the innovation funding from the Catapult, combined with recent funding of £95million Bristol secured from the government, matches our commitment to making Temple Meads and its surrounding area a world-class gateway to the city region.”

Applications are open until Sunday 13th November at midnight. Winners will be announced in January 2023.

Interested startups can apply here.

(Image Credit: Connected Places Catapult)

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