Case study

Case study

We designed and developed the Operational Information System (OIS) for Network Rail for the London Olympics. The OIS was a replacement system installed in 77 stations across the rail network and proved to be a highly effective method of real-time passenger messaging.

The aim of the Olympics OIS workstream was to increase the number of OIS screen locations by 300% over a four month period and ensure they were ready for use in time for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and London 2012. It was recognised, however, that improvements to services and the transport network’s operational performance would be insufficient on their own to deliver a successful Games transport operation. Regular travellers also needed to be encouraged to avoid the busiest times and places on the networks.


A major programme of Travel Demand Management was put in place which advised businesses, spectators and regular travellers of the busiest times and places on the networks, as well as available options for changing their travel behaviour.

This joined up approach to Travel Demand Management resulted in the UK’s first-ever nationwide Transport Co-ordination Centre, enabling cross-modal transport operators to share information, respond to incidents, and integrate and optimise communication to customers - based on the real-time analysis of travel trends and network conditions. 

The key aims of the Transport Coordination Centre were to ensure the athletes were their top priority and to provide safe, secure, inclusive, fast and reliable transport for the Games Family. This required efficient Transport Demand Management and effective passenger messaging, in order to divert the public away from known congestion areas and to encourage commuters to use alternative routes.


Network Rail oversaw the physical installation of display screens in all of the selected station locations. Network connectivity needed to be installed at each screen location to enable the delivery of real-time transport demand management messages from the Transport Coordination Centre. In several cases the timescales did not allow for a BT line to be installed, so we reverted to a contingency plan using 3G dongles to successfully bring all the targeted Operator Information System locations online. These 3G locations included critical stations, such as Coventry, the venue for football, and Eton, the location for rowing.

Our team worked alongside Anthony Gough, Business Systems Specialist of Network Rail, to understand how the system could meet the specific messaging during London 2012. Netpractise created the specific look and feel of the London 2012 Operation IS screen layouts and message templates. Initial mock-ups were submitted to a collaborative design process with visibility at Cabinet level. The final designs and wording were influenced by the Culture and Sports Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who signed them off personally. 

“Considering the Olympic scale of what was needed at very short notice for system design and implementation in comparison to standard projects, Netpractice were key to delivering the revised system in time and were very agile with any changes required at short notice; they took to the challenge with enthusiam” commented Anthony Gough, Business Systems Specialist, Network Rail.

The lengthy design process resulted in a library of hundreds of colour coded and location specific wayfinding, information and advisory messages. These were deployed at each station to give ‘steady state’ messages, directing passengers to transport connections and local venues, and suggesting alternatives, such as walking or cycling. OIS Operators at the Transport Coordination Centre were able to replace these messages at certain locations if people needed to take a different route, due to overcrowding or other incidents taking place (both on National Rail and other modes e.g. Transport for London). The system was also used to advise spectators who were intending to attend the road events of the best viewing destinations, based on real-time knowledge of each location was. 

With 33 Olympic venues across the UK, 11 of these outside of London, the requirements for location specific transport messaging was huge. 


Our OIS system was targeted as a critical tool to assist in the Transport Demand Management strategy, both before and during the Games. It has provided a lasting legacy with the introduction of daily transport demand messages of Problem, Impact, Advice during disruption. Network Rail continues to have a presence at the Transport Coordination Centre, such was the successful outcome of the arrangement.

The project brief was developed at a very late stage within the overall Olympic transport strategy. The L.B. Foster Netpractise and Network Rail relationship was thoroughly tested in bringing together multiple disciplines and interest groups to design, document, install and run an Olympics Operational Information System that would deliver a real impact and value for money. The results were widely acknowledged to have exceeded all expectations. 

Following the Paralympic Games, Number 10 harnessed the penetrative reach of the Olympic Operator Information System network to deliver the ‘This is GREAT Britain’ campaign to commuters, tourists and travellers. Over 90% of the screens that were installed for this project are still in place, in use, providing daily service quality information, security and safety advice and advanced warnings of engineering works.

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