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Students put ideas forward to Nexus for hi-tech train systems

Students put ideas forward to Nexus for hi-tech train systems Sunday, February 5 2017

Trains with touch screen windows and seats that transmit audio could signal the future of the Tyneside and Wear Metro under hi-tech designs created by whizz kids at South Tyneside College.

Passenger facial recognition systems and adjustable personal air conditioning also feature in a classroom project by computing students.

They put their ideas to test after Metro operator Nexus sought input from the public over its planned £1bn investment in next generation trains and system infrastructure.

The learners split into three teams to investigate onboard digital software, travel security, and the overall design of new carriages in a project fitted into one-week timetable.

They now hope Nexus will include their ideas in designing new the trains with suppliers.

South Tyneside College lecturer Matt Sessions said: “The students showed they have a very good grasp of what people might want from their transport system in the years ahead.

“These are ideas of the future and ideally we would love for some of them to be taken up by Nexus.

“Research shows that older people care most about security and that the young want technology like wi-fi on the trains.

“The students have really got into the project and have done a lot of research into the type of technology that may exist when these trains come to be built and in the years after.

“The project has been greatly beneficial to their understanding of elements of learning within their course.

“This has been an excellent way for the college and the students to engage with outside businesses. They have done themselves proud.”

The Level 3 BTEC computing students returned to classroom to plan the project after attending a day-long pop-up lab at The Customs House in South Shields.

It was one of several drop-in events held around the region at which the public could meet experts from Newcastle University’s Open Lab to discuss carriage design.

The university team will share their findings with Nexus to inform their discussions with international train-building firms to build the first new Metrocars since 1980.

The students also examined security solutions such as CCTV and facial recognition, incorporating new fibres for vandal-proof seating, and how to buy tickets on-board using mobile phone scanning.

They have also visited Open Lab to present their ideas to experts in design and computing via a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitch.

Simon Bowen, the Open Lab researcher leading the project, said: “We’ve been really impressed with the thought and effort put into the students work so far.

“I can see that their detailed information proposals for the application of communication technology (ICT) in future Metro trains will be valuable to Nexus.” 

The Open Lab’s involvement coincides with Nexus finalising a bid to the Department for Transport to help fund a new generation of trains plus associated infrastructure that will serve the region for decades to come.

Running throughout November, the Metro Futures project also featured social media discussions, workshops and video diaries to record and share people’s experiences.