By BIlly D'Arcy CEO, BAI Communications UK

Rail commuters spend an average of two hours and 11 minutes on the move each day. Travelling can be stressful; congestion, delays and cancellations all take their toll on our mental health and wellbeing.

New research from London City Airport, Building Better, the role of transport infrastructure and services in improving mental health, considers how improving the way people travel and their experience at key transport links, such as railway stations, could improve mental health. It reinforces findings from a survey by BAI Communications last year, in which 61% of rail respondents said consistent mobile connectivity on their commute would reduce their stress levels. More recently, BAI’s Continuous Connectivity global research found that if rail networks evolved in the future and commuters could better enjoy their journeys, 53% of London respondents would arrive at their destination relaxed and happy, creating more mindful journeys.

Making the most of your time

Using seamless connectivity to work more efficiently isn’t just about getting ahead of work emails or fine-tuning important documents. “On-board connectivity means that travel time is no longer wasted. Passengers can use their travel time productively, whether that’s working or staying in touch with friends, and that can help reduce stress,” notes Billy D’Arcy, CEO at BAI Communications UK.

This is backed up by the findings from BAI’s Continuous Connectivity research. Just over a third (34%) of London respondents said if networks evolved in the future they would be able to keep better connected to friends and family, while 46% said they would enjoy the ‘me time’ travel provided, free from the distractions of life.

Keeping passengers informed

As well as allowing customers to utilise their travel time, connectivity also improves travel conditions. “Technology-driven solutions make it easier for people to use the rail network and more likely they arrive at their destinations relaxed and happy,” Billy says. “The key advantages are real-time information about delays, reduced station wait time and better connections with trains and other transport modes, with transport authorities providing live scheduling updates, which keep passengers in the know and provide greater clarity.”

Connectivity also makes travel safer. As well as reduced waiting time at stations, it gives passengers access to help or transport information at the touch of a button. Users can also report harassment quickly and discretely using their phones, reducing the need to unnecessarily use train alarm systems.

Improving the experience

Connectivity can also improve the experience for rail users by reducing overcrowding and managing passenger flow, a key factor which impacts mental wellbeing.

Passengers can, for example, pay quickly and easily via wireless fare payment systems. The Continuous Connectivity research found that almost half (49%) of London respondents said contactless payment systems had increased their use of public transport or changed the way they use it. “Connected payment systems mean that we can keep passengers on the move as they pass through stations,” says Billy. “This reduces those frustrating bottlenecks, which can be highly stressful, reduces fare evasion and allows transport authorities to monitor passenger numbers.”

Analysing passenger numbers also helps controllers make better-informed decisions about station management, such as the speed and direction of escalators, as well as when best to schedule maintenance operations.

A connected future

Travelling is a vital part of our modern, connected lives. Our society can do so much more to realise the potential of commuting. High-quality connectivity and innovative transport infrastructure would reduce overcrowding and unexplained delays. It would allow passengers to take care of the things that matter to them in their helping us all to arrive at our destinations happy and relaxed ready for what lies ahead.