Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

The Quantified Traveller: Applying Self-tracking Towards More Worthwhile Rail Journeys

  Christian Tamakloe (2016 cohort)   www.ctamakloe.com


In the face of increasing ubiquity of devices and technologies, one area that travellers are equipped to take advantage of, though usually poorly supported, is in the use of their travel time. With a smartphone penetration at 72% of the population - 54% deeming it necessary to their travel experience - it is no wonder that over half of UK travellers always look for ways to optimize their journey [1]. Unfortunately, transport studies and policies have until recently framed this time as ‘wasted’ time in between ‘real’ activities and sought to minimise it [2]. However, there is qualitative proof that travel time has a positive utility, with over three quarters of rail passengers not considering the use of their travel time as a waste [3] and a large majority equipping themselves to utilise this time through a combination of objects such as mobile technologies, work-related or leisure reading material and infrastructural design or facilities [4].

A common thread emerging from these studies is the increasing use of various digital-age innovations during travel, rapidly replacing paper-based materials and generating massive datasets of a highly personal nature in the process. Better able to record and monitor different aspects of their lives, this has in turn led to a renewed interest in the age-old practice of self-tracking among the mass population. Thus, the Quantified Self and other similar movements have emerged to support members with best practices and techniques through blogs, regular meetings and conferences in areas such as health and fitness, work-place productivity and well-being. Using smartphones, wearables and a variety of applications, individuals are able to collect data on various aspects of their lives for reasons ranging from a desire to better improve behaviours or habits to simple curiosity.

Research Aims

This PhD aims to understand how the rail passenger experience can be improved by applying learnings from the digital self-tracking phenomenon to the field of transport studies to investigate passenger’s use of travel time and how the benefits derived from improved time use can be realised in practice. To this end, data on passengers’ travel experience and time use will be collected through digital self-tracking approaches and analysed to generate insights which will then be presented to passengers to inform their travel behaviours. The research will also investigate the provision of passenger tools and/or transport operator services powered by the insights that will support passengers in configuring their travel time use. Finally, it will consider issues concerning the deployment of self-tracking a solution in transport as a service and how data from multiple sources can be integrated to generate useful insights.


  1. Catapult Transport Systems, 2015. Traveller Needs and UK Capability Study, s.l.: s.n
  2. Lyons, G. & Urry, J., 2005. Travel time use in the information age. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, February - March, 39(2), p. 257–276.
  3. Lyons, G., Jain, J. & Holley, D., 2007. The use of travel time by rail passengers in Great Britain. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, January, 41(1), pp. 107-120.
  4. Jain, J. & Lyons, G., 2008. The gift of travel time. Journal of Transport Geography , March, 16(2), pp. 81-89.

This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (RCUK Grant No. EP/L015463/1) and Thales UK.