Estimating passenger numbers in trains using existing weighing capabilities

Bo Friis Nielsen, Laura Frølich, Otto Anker Nielsen, Dorte Filges

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Knowing passenger numbers is important for the planning and operation of the urban rail systems. Manual and electronic counting systems (typically infrared or video) are expensive and therefore entail small sample sizes. They usually count boarding and alighting passengers, which means that errors in estimates of total numbers of passengers propagate along train runs. Counting errors in manual and electronic counting systems are typically flow-dependent, making uncertainty a function of volume. This paper presents a new counting technique that exploits the weighing systems installed in most modern trains to control braking. This technique makes passenger counting cheaper and ensures a complete sample. The paper compares numbers estimated by this technique with manual counts and counts from an infrared system in trains in urban Copenhagen. It shows that the weighing system provides more accurate passenger counts than the infrared equipment. The method has been validated on a large data set and is now in full operation in the urban Copenhagen rail system.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTransportmetrica A: Transport Science
Issue number6
Pages (from-to) 502–517
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • electronic weighing equipment
  • passenger counting
  • calibration problem
  • nverse method
  • classical method


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