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Heathrow Express wins ‘Digital Pioneer Award’ at the UK Rail Industry Awards for world first, multi-language smart screens

Heathrow Express won the prestigious Digital Pioneer Award at the UK Rail Industry Award ceremony, hosted by Rail Technology Magazine on Thursday 9 February. The express rail service has won the award for the second year running with their multi-language smart screens, which are a world first, providing Heathrow passengers with a warm welcome to the UK in their own language.

The screens provide live information on the speed and price of a journey on Heathrow Express compared to a black cab in a language to suit the arriving flight. Placed in baggage reclaim zones, they are clearly visible to passengers waiting for their luggage and considering their onward travel options.  

Fraser Brown, Director of Heathrow Express said: “New arrivals into Heathrow can spend anxious minutes working out the timings and cost of transport options to central London. As part of our work to offer passengers the best airport service in the world these screens provide real time information about the fastest and best value choice of onward travel.  We recently upgraded them to offer this information in six more languages so passengers who don’t have English as a first language can benefit too. ”

In order to provide accurate data, the screens take feeds from The Met Office’s super computer on weather; GPS tracking on speed and flows of traffic from Tom-Tom and google maps and the journey times are fed through a bespoke algorithm which, using information from Transport for London, calculates a fare estimate.. Meanwhile, information from Network Rail systems constantly monitors and delivers up to the minute rail status.  

To set the right language for arriving flights, the smart screens plug directly into Heathrow’s air traffic control and each flight’s unique call sign, which includes the city and country of origin. Once assigned to a baggage carousel, the screens ascertain the most suitable language and translate the content on each screen.

Heathrow Express selected seven languages to translate the screens into after analysing passenger arrival statistics and their own customer data. The screens now work in English, Spanish, Finnish, German, French, Italian, Arabic and Cantonese. The service will be monitored and reviewed with more languages set to be added this year.

Around 100,000 passengers arrive at Heathrow each day and the screens enhance travelers’ experience of arriving at Heathrow and traveling on to central London. They also help customers make a sustainable transport choice.  

Discussing this year’s awards, Roy C Rowlands, business development director at RTM, said: “More than 130 individual organisations entered this year’s awards, bidding to win one of the accolades across 23 categories. I’d like to say a massive well done to all the winners; your work is truly transforming the country.”

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