Archive for the ‘National Rail Enquiries’ Category

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Some updates from National Rail Enquiries

May 7, 2013

I hope everyone is well and enjoying the spring sunshine! In this blog I’m going to provide some updates covering:

-    Code of Practice for using our Real Time API’s

-    Website outage in April

-    Changes made over the winter – to TrainTracker & the mobile apps

We have a selection of API’s for use by third parties to create their own applications We have recently reissued our Code of Practice – developers are encouraged to read the updated Code of Practice for using our Real Time API’s, which covers how to apply for licences to use our information feeds.

The main services NRE can offer are:

- Live departure and arrival boards

- Journey planning (although this application is not owned by TISL so there are restrictions in our ability to sub-licence)

- Stations information XML

- Train Company information XML

- Disruption and engineering work XML

- Promotions XML

- Ticket XML

For further information please join our LinkedIn group to engage with us and the community of developers.

We’ve recently hit a new milestone; this year we’re celebrating the 10th year of the interactive website & now we’re proud to serve over 10 million unique visitors per month across our online channels – that is the desktop website, mobile site and our apps.

Unfortunately we don’t get everything right and I’d like to apologise for an outage to the desktop website (http://nationalrail.co.uk) on Friday 29th March. This occurred due to human error, which caused the servers to go into a loop, and resulted in requests to visit the website failing. This is disappointing for us, as it’s the first major outage for 36 months. We’re working with our suppliers (who have identified the cause) to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

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Towards the end of last year, we relaunched our automated TrainTrackerTM service which allows customers to retrieve live train times (including delays and cancellations for today & tomorrow and plan journeys up to 3 months in advance. The new service has some great benefits for customers, not only is it more accurate – we’ve seen an 8% increase in successful recognitions of what the customer’s requesting, but it allows you to say your origin and destination in one go, making your call quicker. Where things do go wrong, all calls are now recorded & stored for up to 3 months so that we can listen to the call in the event of a customer getting in touch with our Customer Relations team about it. You can use TrainTracker by calling 0871 200 49 50 (calls cost 10p per minute from a BT landline, calls from other operators and mobiles may be higher).

At the end January we launched updates to our smartphone apps. Now customers can choose to receive disruption information through the app – so you’re alerted on your phone when there is a problem on the route(s) you travel on.  Our iOS app now supports iPhone 5. You can download the app from here

I’ll write more in the next few weeks as we have a few major developments in the pipeline, including an app for iPads and improvements to the cheapest fare finder.

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Season’s Greetings

December 21, 2012

I hope everyone is looking forward to the festive period, in this blog I’m going to talk about:

-          Our new Window 8 app

-          Ticket buying in the Android & iPhone apps

-          Changes to the apps

-          Our gift to you

-          Christmas travel

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With the recent launch of Windows 8, we are excited to announce our Windows 8 App where you can look up live departure & station information.

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The app also includes links to our website when things are going wrong on the railway and utilises Windows 8’s live tiles functionality. You can find this in the Windows 8 store by searching ‘National Rail Enquiries’

Any feedback you have on any of our services can be provided through our Facebook page.

We released the first version of National Rail Enquiries for Android and iPhone in April and have had a massive 2.3 million downloads. As with all of our products, we encourage our customers to provide feedback on our services to see how we can improve. My team has put the app through its paces in testing and I am pleased to announce that Version 2.0 has been released to the app stores. As well as improvements to accessibility such as Voice Over in iOS and TalkBack on Android, we’ve included some fantastic new features:

  • You can now buy your tickets on the move. The app now includes ticket prices and the opportunity to purchase tickets via train operating company websites. Once you’ve completed your purchase, just click “Done” and you can add the journey to the calendar on your phone or have the itinerary sent by email.

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  • ImageMaking it easier to plan your journey is key for us here at National Rail Enquiries so we’ve now added the option to plan your journey using a postcode. You can use a postcode as either the start or end point of your journey & we’ll give you 3 options to choose a station near to that postcode.

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  • One of the great features of the Android operating system is the use of widgets which allow you to have key information on your home screen. Our new widget features live train arrivals/departures between home and work stations – you can set the phone to automatically switch to show the station you’re closest to.

If you haven’t already downloaded our app, then you can download the app for free from the iTunes store or the Google Play store.

Over the festive period we’re running a competition for our customers. If you register with National Rail Enquiries – or set up an alert if you’re already registered – you’re in with a chance of winning some great technology. On offer we have a new iPad, iPhone 5, Microsoft Surface tablet and a Samsung Galaxy SIII. To find out more about this competition and how to enter simply visit this page. Please also share the goodwill with your friends and family so that they can have a chance to win too.

Over the Christmas period, train services will be different. Many trains finish earlier than usual on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and start later in the day on the Thursday 27 December and Tuesday 1 January. Don’t forget to plan your journey online to make sure you don’t get caught out!

No trains run on Christmas Day (some buses will run for Airport services), and there is a limited service around the London and Glasgow areas on Boxing Day. No trains run in Scotland on New Year’s Day, while some Operators run additional early morning trains from London on New Year’s Day following the celebrations in Central London. Our journey planner has the most up to date information.

For more information about changes to train times over the festive period, you can use our online guide which can be found at www.nationalrail.co.uk/Christmas

I hope everyone enjoys the holiday season!

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Some changes at National Rail Enquiries

October 29, 2012

Wow, that was a busy summer! Through the summer we received an increased number of enquiries through all our channels from regular travellers, visitors to the country, Gamesmakers and servicemen & women alike. I made sure that key members of my team were available throughout the day and night, thankfully the rail network and the NRE systems coped admirably!

Since the Games we have made some changes to our websites which I’m keen that you take advantage of.

Fares on the Mobile Site

When we updated the mobile site last year, the initial focus was on refreshing the design to make it easier to use. The plan was to introduce the ability to see ticket prices and transfer to a ticket retailer to finish your purchase. Since then, we’ve been inundated with requests for ticket price information and purchasing options to be brought into the mobile site and we put these changes live last month.

If you’ve not already spotted it we’ve also introduced a ‘location’ button which will use your phone’s GPS functionality to find the stations nearest to you.

We’d be delighted to receive any feedback you’ve got about how the mobile site works, or how it could be improved via our Get Satisfaction page.

 

Disruption Alerts

With the winter looming, we want to make sure you are always informed if there are delays on your line.

One of the other things you’ve requested is the ability to find out about problems on the line of route on which you travel, not just about delays to specific trains. Our new Disruption Alerts service allows you to receive an email, Twitter direct message or SMS when there’s a problem to your route, no matter which train company you travel with.

Visit nationalrail.co.uk and select ‘Disruption Alerts only’ and input the stations you travel From and To.

Setting up Disruption Alerts on National Rail Enquiries Website Example

Once you’ve clicked next, you tell us when you want to receive alerts. For example if you normally travel between 1600 and 1800, you can set your alerts to come through between 1500 and 1800 so you know before you intend to travel if there’s a problem.

Setting up Disruption Alerts on National Rail Enquiries Website Example 2

We hope you find our new features useful and if you have any further suggestions, make sure you let us know.

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National Rail Enquiries needs you!

July 10, 2012

NRE take on the 24 Peaks Challenge

This week, a team of the brave / foolhardy / gluttons for punishment (delete as appropriate!) are making their way up to the Lake District to complete the 24 Peaks Challenge with the aim of raising money for the Railway Children.

If you don’t know, the 24 Peaks isn’t just another challenge, it’s a monster! The challenge is to scale 24 Peaks in the Lakes, each one over 2400 ft (including the highest peak in England!) in just 24 hours.

I intended to attempt the challenge myself, however I unfortunately had to have an operation on my knee which hindered my ability to train properly. Our team is made up of NRE employees alongside one from ATOC and one of our suppliers, The Virtual Zone. The walkers are Duncan Henry, Gary Winstanley, John Horncastle, Kim Squires, Kirstie O’Connell, Maria Ward and Tim Martin and they’re ably assisted by the support team of Al Page and Maria Mlynarska.

They’ve been training hard over the last few months to prepare themselves, but the motivation they’ll need will come from the donations that we’ve gathered from friends and family, our customers and yourselves! Railway Children is an international children’s charity, raising money for street children in the UK, India and East Africa.

This short video explains why they do what they do:

Any & all donations are gratefully received! You can do so via our fundraising page here: http://virginmoneygiving.com/team/nre24peaks2012 or by texting “Children” to 70099 to donate £1*.

On behalf of all the walkers & the Railway Children, thank you!

*From most users Railway Children will receive 99p from each text donation with a minimum of 97p received dependant on your network operator.

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New look homepage & number 1 for use of Twitter in Social Brands 100

May 30, 2012

By now you will hopefully have discovered our new look homepage! As promised in the March blog, the changes we’ve implemented have been specifically as a result of feedback given by customers through our Customer Relations & Social Media channels.

Amongst the changes that have been introduced to the website are:

  • Improvements to addition of returns & railcards
  • Making it easier to change your journey requirements
  • Increased visibility of favourite / recent journeys
  • Live Tweets in the latest travel news pages

Our new look journey planner

I’m confident that these changes will make using the website even easier. The live tweets being shown as part of the latest travel news is a fundamental change to the way we present information during disruption. In addition to the existing information about the extent of the problem and its impact on the train service, the website now shows messages sent through Twitter by NRE and other reputable sources (e.g. Network Rail / Train Operating Companies / multiple customers). This new feature will allow you to see how the disruption evolves and have access to a greater level of detail about it. Bear with us over the next few weeks as I’m sure the process for publishing tweets will evolve.

I’m delighted to announce that National Rail Enquiries were announced the No. 1 brand for use of Twitter in Headstream’s Social Brands 100 list published on 29th May. At NRE, we’re constantly striving to improve the provision of information through all our channels including social media, so it’s a boost to see our efforts being recognised. We were also placed first in their measurement of timeliness to respond via Twitter.

NRE were placed 36th in the overall use of Social Media which represents our lack of presence on some of the other social networks. The judges were looking at brands that not only promoted themselves, but who were seen to care about their customers & provide an excellent level of service. We’re going to look to expand our reach over the next year whilst improving what we’re offering customers and hopefully in next year’s list we’ll do even better!

Finally, let me finish by wishing you a very happy long weekend. If you’re out and about by train celebrating the Diamond Jubilee, you might like to visit our Jubilee page (www.nationalrail.co.uk/DiamondJubilee) which summarises how each train company is affected.

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National Rail Enquiries announces a new app for iPhone & Android

May 1, 2012

National Rail Enquiries for Android and iPhone

I’ve got some exciting news! For the last few months the team have been working on an exciting project to bring all the best bits of National Rail Enquiries onto your smartphone. Today, I’m delighted to announce that National Rail Enquiries for Android& iPhone have been launched in the Google Play Store & App Store.

In this first issue of the apps we have a host of great tools which I hope will make your travelling by train a bit easier. Key features include –

  • In app alerting – you can subscribe to be told when your train is >5 mins late (or other preferences you choose.
  • Or why not pin your train? If you pin a train it will stay on your home screen throughout the train’s journey, no more having to hunt the train down via the live arrivals board.

As you’d expect you can also do your journey plans and live departure queries and it uses the same great information that’s available via our website and other channels.

Detailed train arrival / departure informationNational Rail Enquiries is funded by the train operating companies, who are in turn funded by you the traveller. It was therefore important that we put together the project using the most cost-efficient model. The apps are available in an ad-supported free version, or you can upgrade for a one-off charge to an ad-free version. We will continue to provide our information feeds to our existing licencees so any other apps you’ve downloaded in the past will continue to work. For information about licencing our information, please see this page on our website.

More info on these apps is available on our website.

We’d love to hear what you think of the app, and have incorporated a feedback form into our Facebook page. In addition, you can also get in touch with us via the Contact Us form on our website.

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Spring is finally upon us!

March 28, 2012

Spring is finally upon us and the warmer weather is definitely putting a spring in the step of all of us here at National Rail Enquiries. In this month’s blog I am going to share my experiences from my trip to India earlier this month and give you an update on the progress with the mobile site.

Firstly, on behalf of the team and myself I would like to give my sincerest apologies if you have been experiencing any issues accessing our site via your mobile. We have been working with our suppliers to get the change implemented and despite a lot of testing done by the team, the implementation caused some difficulties. Currently, Android users cannot plan journeys from the full site, and have to keep using the mobile site for now whilst our suppliers work on the problem.

I am just back from visiting our call centres in India. We have about 300 staff there at our sites in New Delhi and in Mumbai. I visit both sites twice each year, and this time I travelled between the two by sleeper train (it’s a 17-hour journey!).

Visiting the teams there I am always struck by their sheer dedication and enthusiasm for supporting our customers. They put a huge amount of effort into giving you the best rail travel options no matter how tricky your query is.

As for the website, the team is currently testing some exciting new developments which I’ll tell you more about in the coming weeks. We’re making changes to journey planner to make it clearer how to add railcards or choose a return journey time amongst a host of other things. In the meantime, one of the team has created a video guide to using our Pocket Timetable tool which you can view on YouTube.

I hope you have an enjoyable Easter weekend – if you’re travelling on the railway check out our Easter page to find out what work is going on, or alternatively just plan a journey with our journey planner which includes the alterations in the timetable.

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Viewing the full site from a mobile device

March 13, 2012

Hello, Kathryn from NRE here, posting a quick guest slot to update you on some progress.

The good news is that on Thursday (hopefully by lunchtime) you’ll be able to access the full NRE website on mobile devices.

I’m sorry for the time this has taken to resolve, but we wanted to make sure that it worked as smoothly as possible. From then you’ll be able to click on a “Full Site” link at the bottom of the mobile website – we’ll also remember your preference for future visits. If you want to change this back to the mobile version, you can clear your cookies or click on “Mobile Site” from the bottom of the page.

We have some further updates coming at the end April incorporating some more of your feedback, more news on that in the next few weeks.

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It’s all win win win!

February 29, 2012

It’s the end February and we here at National Rail Enquiries have some exciting news to share with you. We have a great competition coming up on Twitter to celebrate reaching a total of one hundred thousand followers, an update to the mobile site that will make the experience even better and another video guide to help you get the most out of our online services.

Firstly, as promised last month, we are rolling out a small enhancement to the mobile site that will give you the ability to browse nationalrail.co.uk in either the mobile optimised format or the standard desktop view. From mid March onwards when you visit the site from your mobile, you will have the ability to select which view you fancy and your mobile will automatically remember your preference in the future. This was a popular request from our customers and I hope it makes for an improved mobile experience for many of you. We’re just testing that everything works at the moment, as soon as it’s ready we’ll put the change in thank you for your patience in the meantime. We’ve also heard reports that some customers are having problem using the website using Safari due to changes made to the cookie settings in the latest update to the browser – the website (like many others) needs cookies enabled to work, we’ve posted some instructions here.

Our social media following is growing at a rapid pace and to help us reach one hundred thousand followers on Twitter we are giving away an iPad 2 as well as 5 Amazon Kindles. This is very exciting for us and to enter all you have to do is follow our national (@nationalrailenq) or one of the many local Twitter accounts (see the list below) and keep an eye out for the competition Tweets in the coming weeks! If you’re not already following us on Twitter it is a great tool to keep up to date with live network disruptions from your favourite train operator or the entire UK rail network.

National Rail Enquiries Disruption info on Twitter

Also, this month we have released a new video guide on Facebook and YouTube demonstrating how you can use our cheapest fare finder to help you save on your travelling costs! The cheapest fare finder is an easy to use tool that helps you find the lowest single fare for your desired route, operator and time. We think this tool can be a real help to our users in these tough financial times.

All the best and good luck with your competition entries!

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Happy new year!

January 20, 2012

Welcome to the New Year, I hope you all thoroughly enjoyed the festive break and managed to have a great time with family and friends. 2011 was such a busy year for us with all our new products and services rolling out it just flew past. However, looking forward it is difficult not to get excited about this year with the London 2012 Games, European Football Championships and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee just around the corner!

In my last blog I talked about the new mobile website that launched late last year and I would like to let you all know it has been a huge success so far with 3 million views of the site last month alone! We have been receiving a large amount of feedback, most of which has been very positive and I thank you all for that. We are delighted when we hear that your journeys have been made easier through the use of our service.

Besides all the good news, there is one issue we noticed in the feedback that we are currently working to rectify. Many mobile users have asked that there be an option to switch between the mobile site and full site when visiting nationalrail.co.uk on their mobile phones. This is currently not possible, however we have been talking with our suppliers and we hope to have this additional feature added in the near future (I will keep you posted).

Now, we are not stopping there, the ball keeps rolling in 2012 and we have been busy with many new projects. One being the refresh of our YouTube channel. With the help of YouTube, we have the goal of building a bank of useful video guides and product information that everyone can easily access.

Our newest addition to the YouTube channel is a video tutorial showing how to set up alerts on the National Rail Enquiries website. This video was created by someone in my team and demonstrates how easy it is to receive train delays and cancellations via email, text message and Twitter. The best thing is email and Twitter alerts are completely free and if you want, text message alerts can be sent with a small fee being charged by your mobile provider. So don’t get caught out during the winter months and sign up to alerts on our website!

Finally, I would like to wish you all the best for the remaining winter months and a prosperous New Year to you and your families.

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