One year after taking over operations and maintenance of the Welsh rail network on behalf of Transport for Wales (TfW), TfW Rail Services (operated by KeolisAmey Wales) recently shortlisted the start-ups that will join the Lab by Transport for Wales in January 2020. An open innovation initiative for the benefit of travelers in Wales.

Led by TfW Rail Services, in partnership with Alt Labs, and fully funded by the public transport authority (TfW), the "Lab by Transport for Wales" will open its doors in January 2020. From January to April, ten startups will be welcomed in a dedicated place in Newport (Wales), where they will receive advice and coaching in order to develop and improve their product or service.

For this first promotion of the "Lab", startups will be focusing on customer experience, a theme chosen by TfW and TfW Rail Services. Customer experience is a key element in the transformation of the 1623 km of the Welsh network, whose contract runs until 2033. In 2019, passengers in the network have already witnessed significant developments in this matter, such as the adaptation of the fare range or the launch of a new application and a new ticketing system.

Startups incubated at the Lab by Transport for Wales, coming from England, Wales and even Germany, will have twelve weeks to develop their solution and to finally present it to a jury composed of representatives from the PTA and TfW Rail Services. Throughout the programme, start-ups will be supported by partners such as the cities of Cardiff and Newport, Cardiff University, the Development Bank of Wales or Business Wales, the Welsh Government's business development agency. Among the ten companies incubated, many promising innovation projects are to be developed.

Selected startups offer solutions ranging from route planning such as Big Lemon's project, which allow train passengers to compare their carbon footprint with other means of transport, to solutions improving accessibility to sight-impaired and foreigners, as developed by The Wayfarers. Another project from TouchByte uses facial recognition to identify vulnerable people (children, elderly, disabled) and improve their passenger experience.

The winning companies in the programme will share £25,000 and will be offered the opportunity to collaborate with KeolisAmey.

Presented in the bid for Wales and Borders, the Lab is an inspiring example of innovation governance. For local startups, startups incubated in Newport contribute to the economic development of a post-industrial region in search of transformation. For KeolisAmey, the Lab is an opportunity to guide the development of innovative solutions that meet the challenges of the network and to build a relationship of trust, built on transparency, with TfW. Future promotions of startups incubated at the Lab will look intoother activities, such as maintenance or operations. In addition, incubated start-ups benefit from extensive support and a life-size field of experimentation to develop their solutions. Finally, travellers gain access to new services to improve their experience of the Welsh rail network.

Designed to become the innovation showcase for railways in the United Kingdom, the "Lab by Transport for Wales" is a real differentiating element for TfW Rail Services, and consolidates KeolisAmey's desire to position itself as the driving force behind the Welsh innovation ecosystem.