• CodingCats – a group of innovators from the tech sector – wins Hack Partners’ sixth HackTrain event
  • Its algorithm could allow the rail industry to unlock spare capacity by providing more detailed information on how long trains spend through congested parts of the network and the impact to services
  • Eight ideas from the event to be taken forward by Network Rail and hackers as part of a post-Hackathon acceleration initiative, generating results much faster than before

A new algorithm, combining track circuit and signal berth data to more accurately identify a train’s location at any given time, was the winning entry at this year’s HackTrain VI event – powered by Hack Partners and Network Rail.

The solution – created by CodingCats – found that there was spare capacity in parts of the rail network, providing opportunities for more accurate timetabling and improvements in the operation of the railway.

Other finalists' ideas combined existing Network Rail data sources with the new developments in data technology. Solutions included a tool providing a 3D model of our railway assets through captured image data and a passenger-facing solution allowing passengers to access different travel options during disruption.

The event was opened by Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines, who challenged over 80 innovators in the room to create new solutions for rail that would put passengers first. Subject matter expertise was provided from Network Rail and the wider industry, while Hack Partners worked to drive innovation and recruit the brightest and best to deliver new ideas for the railway.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “With more trains running on the network than ever before, we have a real challenge on our hands to improve services for the growing number of passengers who want to travel by train. It is vital that we, as an industry, find and implement new technologies at pace to meet this challenge.

“HackTrain provides us with a unique opportunity to think outside the box and make innovative ideas a reality. I’d like to thank everyone who took part.”

River Tamoor Baig, Hack Partners founder, said: “I’m very impressed with the winning team. This idea isn’t just impactful for unlocking more capacity, but also rail operations. It’s a fantastic solution that could really make a difference in several parts of the network. We’re excited to collaborate with Network Rail to take this and other ideas forward.”

Network Rail identified eight ideas as part of a design contest which will be taken forward in the post-Hackathon acceleration initiative, receiving dedicated development resource and funding.  The approach forms part of continued efforts within Network Rail to reduce the barriers to innovation by making itself easier to work with.

Notes to editors

  • HackTrain VI took place between 15-17 November, starting at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel and travelling by train between various locations in the South of England.
  • Network Rail worked extensively this year to ensure ideas raised at the Hackathon could be continued afterwards in a fair and open manner. HackTrain VI was run as a design contest initiating innovative solutions, with proof of concept demos linked to challenge statements within 48 hours. This allowed contracts to be set up with winning teams directly afterwards.