From ticket to track: The innovative future tools that keep your train running on time

LNER FutureLabs

We think train travel is about more than just getting from A to B; which is why we’ve always tried to offer the best experience to our customers.

In fact, in the 1920s, LNER designed trains with everything from hair salons to cinema carriages on board. As train travel soared in popularity over the last century, designs have had to evolve to be more practical, particularly for the likes of commuting.

But while we've waved goodbye to cinemas on trains, we still care deeply about our customers’ experience on board. We’re continually innovating to bring comfort and convenience to the future of train travel. Our Innovation team works closely with a number of exciting startups to introduce new technologies that can enhance the travel experience, including through FutureLabs – our annual innovation accelerator programme which recently concluded its fourth year. FutureLabs allows us to collaborate with small companies and startups, over a twelve-week intensive programme to develop their concepts to trial.

Let’s take a look at how innovation is playing a role across different stages of a journey:

Staying entertained

Our Innovation Team trialled cutting-edge solution, edgecasting, on three LNER trains – making it possible for passengers to catch up on their favourite TV shows from platforms like ITVX, without having to worry about WiFi bandwidth.

Netskrt systems’ technology allows LNER to cache TV episodes and films at ‘the edge’ in local storage on board, meaning they’re readily available, no matter how many others are refreshing their email. This trial has now concluded, and we are analysing the results to determine how this technology can supplement our current onboard offering.

We also trialled Window Seater Window Seater on the App Store ( the audible entertainment app which plays location-based stories designed for children to keep them entertained on the go during the summer holidays – we had great uptake and feedback on the app from users.

Taking a nap

The wheels are already in motion to iron out bumps and jolts thanks to a smart data project with Polychord that came out of FutureLabs 3.0. This spin out from Cambridge University’s Astrophysics department, ran a trial collecting hundreds of anonymised data points from the accelerometer sensors and GPS on mobile phones of people travelling on trains, and pooled the data to identify patterns where areas of the track are causing ‘roughriding’ - when the train jolts unexpectedly.

Instead of implementing frustrating speed restrictions on long areas of the track or deploying engineers to search larger areas of track for the issue, LNER, working alongside Network Rail, will be able to use this technology in the future to predict where targeted maintenance is needed and take action ahead of time, ensuring our passengers can drink their tea without spills, or snooze in peace!