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New app will help get you a seat on the train

A new app feature will alert Sydney commuters of a packed train to prevent the transport network from becoming a COVID-19 hot spot. Users of the Opal Travel app will now have the option to sign up for push notifications telling them when their normal departure is at risk of crowding.“We’re just going to deploy…

A new app feature will alert Sydney commuters of a packed train to prevent the transport network from becoming a COVID-19 hot spot.

Users of the Opal Travel app will now have the option to sign up for push notifications telling them when their normal departure is at risk of crowding.

“We’re just going to deploy every technology available to keep people safe.” NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said.

The new feature was rushed out in just 12 weeks by a team of tech firms, including Amazon Web Services, who worked alongside NSW transport officials.

The government paid $500,000 for the feature, which uses a range of data points to determine whether each user is likely to end up on a crowded train or not.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Australian government agencies have taken advantage of the wealth of data collected from residents every day to keep track of people’s movements for contact tracing and infection prevention.

When using public transport, Sydney commuters leave a detailed trail of information behind, from each blip of an Opal card to the physical act of sitting down on a train.

Authorities measure the weight of train carriages and then gauge the additional weight of each passenger to calculate how close to capacity a section is.

The new service uses that data as well as information on a commuter’s usual travel habits to predict if they are likely to have trouble social distancing on the rail network.

Mr Constance also took the opportunity to urge commuters to wear masks, saying there was concern that mask use had dropped off as the state’s coronavirus numbers had become rosier recently.

The minister said he hoped Sydneysiders would voluntarily put on face coverings, and the government didn’t want to resort to a mandate.

“We don‘t want to have to mandate it. We don’t want to put in place measures, be it fines or denying people service,” Mr Constance said.

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