Bristol Temple Meads to host first UK trials for innovative passenger tech

A multi-million-pound programme will turn Bristol Temple Meads into the UK’s first ‘Station Innovation Zone’, trialling new technologies designed to upgrade passengers’ experience.

Bristol Temple Meads

Credit: Network Rail

Connected Places Catapult and Network Rail have announced that Bristol Temple Meads station is to host trials of innovative passenger technologies thanks to a new partnership between the two.

The programme is selecting start-ups aiming to test new ways to improve various aspects of the passenger experience: from making journeys smoother with smarter ticketing, to making stations more accessible with wayfinding apps; from using AI to improve people flow, to designing better facilities using human-centred design principles.

Funding the programme

The Catapult is directing millions of pounds of Innovate UK funding into the programme, which sees Bristol Temple Meads named as the UK’s first Station Innovation Zone. The five-year programme will pioneer the approach and plans are in place to roll out the model to other stations as it succeeds.

This announcement of the Station Innovation Zone follows the Government’s levelling-up announcement of £95 million for the Bristol Temple Quarter regeneration programme and the Catapult funding will complement the ongoing revitalisation of the station. Around £60 million of the funding from Government will enable improvements in and around Bristol Temple Meads Station, including three new entrances to the station, as well as infrastructure works and new public spaces nearby.

The University of Bristol is developing its presence in Temple Quarter near the station, recently opening the Temple Quarter Research Hub, housing the Bristol Digital Futures Institute with a large scale data-centre and a sector agnostic digital twin.


Opportunities ahead

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Connected Places Catapult on this new programme which will provide SMEs with crucial funding opportunities and Network Rail with new, innovative ideas on how to further enhance the experience of our passengers,” Francis McGarry, Network Rail’s Wales & Western Investment Director, said. “We are committed to developing Bristol Temple Meads into a world class transport hub for the benefit of our passengers, the city of Bristol and wider West of England region, so it is fitting Bristol Temple Meads has been chosen as the UK’s first Station Innovation Zone.”

“Innovate UK is strongly committed to partnerships to deliver future transport systems that are connected, accessible, sustainable, and safe,” Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK, said. “So, we see this partnership between our Connected Places Catapult and Network Rail as an important step to support delivery of passenger technology for the future.”

“Innovation is tough in any industry and rail is especially hard because of the number of assessments and permissions required,” Nicola Yates, CEO of Connected Places Catapult, said. “The net effect is that it takes too much time and costs too much for most small businesses to engage. Partnering with Network Rail to create a multi-year Station Innovation Zone in Bristol’s vibrant Temple Quarter will enable us to support numerous small companies in navigating these challenges and benefit passengers’ experience of the station.”

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