Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Towards More Worthwhile Rail Journeys: Exploring the Role of Personal Data in Augmenting Rail Travellers' Use of Travel Time

  Christian Tamakloe (2016 cohort)   www.ctamakloe.com


Recent advances in ICTs have given individuals the power and tools to creatively tackle everyday challenges they face. This is particularly true with the case smartphones and ubiquitous Internet access, which have become a part of our daily lives. This has led to an explosion in the data generated by individuals each day across various facets of society. The transport industry is no exception, as travellers are increasingly connected on the move [1]. For their part, transport authorities have responded to an increase in demand for public transport with increased spending over the years. In 2014/15, £20.6 billion was spent on public transport in the UK, representing a 29% increase compared to 10 years ago (2004/05) - about half of this spending going towards railways (37%) and local public transport (14%) [2].

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 [3]. Unfortunately, transport studies and policies have until recently framed this time as ‘wasted’ time in between ‘real’ activities and sought to minimise it [4]. 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 [5] 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 [6].

Research Statement

This PhD will attempt to contribute to challenging the current orthodoxy on the disutility of travel time use, and advocate its potential benefits to both policy makers and passengers. In particular, it will explore ways in which operators can augment the travel time behaviour of passengers. This could be in the form of frameworks that incorporate individual or collective personal data to commercialise or optimize the technology infrastructure that underpins the use of travel time or through the design of interventions based on personal data insights that can aid transport staff in supporting traveller activity. The research will be undertaken in collaboration with Thales UK.

Research Questions


The overarching research aim of the project will be to understand how personal data fits into the discourse on rail passenger's travel time use, particularly how it can be harnessed to support their travel time needs.


  • In-depth analysis of personal data generated by passengers during journeys and what that can reveal about passenger travel time use.
  • Evaluation of technologies and infrastructure available to capture passenger data on travel time use
  • Analysis of frameworks and infrastructure that can be employed to optimize service provision using personal data of passengers.
  • Understand whether existing non-mobility datasets can be combined with passenger personal data to provide more useful insights on travel time behaviour.


  1. Jain, J. & Glenn, L., 2012. Travelling in a changing world: Key findings report from the project ‘Ideas in Transit’, s.l.: s.n.
  2. DfT, 2015. Transport Statistics Great Britain 2015, s.l.: s.n.
  3. Catapult Transport Systems, 2015. Traveller Needs and UK Capability Study, s.l.: s.n
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 .