Archive for the ‘National Rail Enquiries’ Category

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St Jude Storm – Impact on our customer service

October 30, 2013

Many more people than ever before used our services on Monday morning and reported a satisfactory experience, but there were problems encountered by some customers. If you were one of those customers who had difficulty in accessing our information on Monday morning, I am very sorry for the additional stress and inconvenience that we caused you. I’ve set out below a brief account of how we approached preparations for the storm and how events unfolded.

Saturday / Sunday

Storm St Jude was well forecast with the Met Office predicting weather that would have an impact on transport and other infrastructure. Some Train Operators took the decision over the weekend not to run trains early on Monday due to the likelihood of there being debris blown on to the tracks and the consequent potential safety impact. This information was posted onto our website homepage on Saturday evening.

On Sunday evening the amended timetable for Monday was made available in our journey planner.

Over the course of the weekend we had a planned upgrade of the journey planning systems which affected our ability to send alerts. This was communicated to customers in advance via their alerting preferences and by email. The upgrade went ahead as planned: one reason for the upgrade was that it allows us to add more capacity as required so that we could meet the needs of more customers.

Our contact centre team drafted in extra staff to work overtime on Monday to try to the cope with the anticipated increase in the number of customers calling. Our information management team was also bolstered with extra people.

The eye of the storm

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We saw a marked increase in traffic across all of our channels (website / mobile / app / contact centre) from Sunday evening which continued through the early hours of Monday morning. Despite many more people than ever before using our services on Monday morning and reporting a satisfactory experience, there were problems encountered by some customers.

The problems included some customers being presented with a blank page rather than their journey plan, live departure board or other information – including in some cases our home page. This also had an impact on some customers using our mobile website, our apps and TrainTracker. This was identified by our support team who immediately began to investigate the cause of the issue and rectify it, whilst adding extra servers to cope with the increased demand. This took some time to complete, but the upgrade at the weekend meant that it was possible without reducing service to the majority of customers.

On our telephone lines, although our contact centre had additional staff working overtime and all desks were fully staffed, some customers had to wait quite a while for their call to be answered. Our advisors answered 47% more calls than a normal weekday and in addition our recorded message system answered almost 12,000 calls.

What worked well

Between 6am and 7am we had approximately 40,000 people on the website at any one time – about ten times what we see on a normal weekday morning. In the hour from 06:00 to 07:00 we answered 50% more requests for train times & ticket prices than in our previous busiest hour, which was when there was heavy snow on 18th January this year. The majority of customers were still able to use the website satisfactorily whilst the fixes were put in place.

Although journey planning in the apps was affected by the overall journey planning problems outlined above, live departure boards and other functions worked well. The Social Media team worked at full capacity delivering over 2000 messages to our Twitter accounts – by the end of Monday we had an extra 11,000 followers on our @nationalrailenq account. On the Facebook page we compiled an album of the pictures of the issues being found by Network Rail and the Train Operators.

Lessons Learned

We are working with our suppliers to investigate what went wrong and why, so that we are better prepared for the next major disruption.

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Exciting News to Share!

September 17, 2013

Hi all, I have some exciting news I wanted to share with you all this month.

Flying High

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Hopefully many of you are aware that National Rail Enquiries is on Twitter, providing 24/7 assistance for travel disruption. So I am thrilled to share with you that National Rail Enquiries’ Twitter account was the second fastest responding brand on Twitter worldwide this quarter. The report from Social Bakers placed us at number 2 with an average response time of 6 minutes. We were also placed again at number 6 for our NRE East Coast Twitter account. You can read their blog and find out more information here. If you’re on Twitter, don’t forget to follow us.

News flashes for UK rail traveller

 

Manchester_Lightningedited

 If you ‘Like’ us on Facebook you may have seen this picture crop up in your Facebook timeline recently. On 23rd July railway equipment near Manchester Piccadilly station was struck by lightning which caused major disruption to trains to and from the station. Luckily, this was caught on camera by a member of the public. The National Rail Communication Centre, which is responsible for publishing the disruption information on our website, included it as a link within the disruption item, so that passengers could see evidence of the cause of their delays.

Journalist Simon Calder highlighted it as his picture of the week. We subsequently shared the item via the NRE Facebook page and received over 40k views, 400+ likes and 400+ shares, which more than doubles our previous highs. If you’re on Facebook you can ‘Like’ us to be kept up to date.

Your Pics

We’ve started posting the station picture submissions we’ve received to go on our Station Pages. If you haven’t yet submitted any pictures, you’ve still got time. We’ll be uploading photos to our station pages soon, but our plan is to keep refreshing them over time as we receive new entries. Info about how to submit a picture is here.

One of my team completes Ride London

Whilst caught up in post London 2012 enthusiasm Kathryn Daniels who works in the Information Team at NRE as Information Development Manager, heard about a ‘Ride London’cycle ride Boris Johnson was organising as part of the Olympic legacy. Kathryn was a Games maker at the Aquatics Centre for the London 2012 Olympics and was keen to get involved.

KDridelondon

The cycle ride was 100 miles roughly following the route of the Olympic road race. To Kathryn’s delight in February she found she had got a place and had to start cycling properly if she was to have a hope of completing the course within the 9 hour time limit. Over the next 6 months Kathryn spent many of her weekends going for cycle rides across the country, building up the distance and working out how to do hills.

Kathryn ended up finishing 1hr ahead of her planned time and finished before Boris! So far Kathryn has raised nearly £1800 for Cancer Research UK, a great achievement. You can sponsor Kathryn at www.justgiving.com/kathryndaniels or read more about her exploits here.

In keeping with Kathryn’s motivation, we’d like to ask what you think her next challenge should be? Let us know in the comment section below.

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Calling all amateur photographers!

August 1, 2013

If you’ve visited one of the station pages on the website you may have noticed that next to the station address we have a photograph.

readingstation

Our intention is that this picture will be a photograph from the station you’re browsing and to do this I need your help.

I’d like to invite all the budding photographers out there to take a picture of your local station or stations and submit them through to us. You can find out how to do that and the terms & conditions through this page.

We’ll pick the best picture for each station and upload it to the page with a credit showing who took it. We’ll also showcase our favourite entries on our Facebook page & Pinterest gallery.

Updates to the Season Ticket Calculator

We’ve recently made a change to our Season Ticket Calculator to make it more user friendly.

London Terminals is the term used by the railway when a ticket is valid for travel into more than one station in London. But customers have told us that it’s confusing when the season ticket results say “London Terminals” because they’re not sure whether the London station they want to travel to is valid or not.

If the station you’ve chosen as your London station is included within the “London Terminals” group for that journey then our season ticket calculator will show it alongside the other London stations you can travel to in the results page:

London Terminals in Season Ticket Calculator

If your station isn’t a valid London Terminal then we’ll return the relevant zonal Travelcard fare instead.

You can find out more about London Terminals tickets via our website.

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All change in the Cheapest Fare Finder!

July 9, 2013

In this post, I am going to tell you about some changes to our website and mobile apps. We have been carefully listening to customer feedback, and we are pleased to announce that we have recently put live a new release of our website and mobile apps.

Updates to the Cheapest Fare Finder

Have you noticed our Cheapest Fare Finder is new and improved?

Previously, the Cheapest Fare Finder allowed you to search across a 4 hour window for a single train operating company at a time. You told us that you wanted to be able to search across the whole day and wanted to see fares offered by a variety of train companies. You also wanted to be able to do your outward and return queries at the same time.

With the changes we’ve made, you can search across the whole day and across all train operating companies that run on the particular route you’ve chosen.

New look Cheapest Fare Finder

The Cheapest Fare Finder will return the cheapest through-fares (i.e from A to B that can be made with one ticket) available on that day.

You can also now plan return journeys so planning that trip away for work or leisure becomes that little bit easier.

To access the Cheapest Fare Finder, simply visit this page and input your journey details.

Updates to the App for Android and iPhone

I’m pleased to announce that we’ve recently released some changes to the apps for Android and iPhone which we’ve made as a result of your feedback.

Buses & ferries within Live Trains

A common comment we received was that when viewing the Live Trains section of the app, it was sometimes difficult to navigate between Trains / Buses and Ferries, with the result that sometimes customers didn’t realise that buses were available, or sometimes trains were missed.

If you look at Live Trains now, you’ll see that the filter for transport mode is now gone and instead, all modes of transport are available on the same screen; instead of a platform number, you will see the image of a bus or a ferry where relevant.

Buses and ferries in LDB

app - menuChanging your journey

Another comment we have received is that in order to see the live departures / arrivals for another station, you would have to go back and make a change there. We have now changed this so you can now edit your selection on the page.

Improved navigation

Rather than a single menu bar at the bottom of the app, the navigation menu at the bottom of the app is now expandable.

The idea is that this will make the app easier to navigate and will allow you to access functions more simply. From this expanded menu, you can now access:

  • station information
  • alerts you’ve set up
  • favourites you’ve saved (stations / journey plans or live trains requests)

As we add more functions, we’ll add these to the menu!

You can download our Android app from the Google Play store and our iPhone app from the App Store and let us know how you get on with it via our online community.

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An apology – problem with journey planning on our apps

July 4, 2013

I just wanted to write a quick message to apologise for a problem that we experienced on Tuesday of this week.

For 45 minutes from 15:45 until 16:30 on Tuesday 2nd July we had a problem with one of our journey planning databases whilst we were conducting some maintenance on it. The impact of this problem was that journey planning through our apps (for Android, iPad, iPhone etc.) didn’t work and the issue also affected apps and websites provided by some of our customers.

It did not affect journey planning on our websites (www.nationalrail.co.uk or m.nationalrail.co.uk).

We have since been working and continue to work with our technical team to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Once again, please accept my apologies for any inconvenience this caused you.

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Announcing the National Rail Enquiries app for iPad!

June 14, 2013

As we are approaching the busy summer months, we have some exciting news to make your journey planning easier. I am thrilled to announce National Rail Enquiries app for iPad which was released to the App Store recently.

Live Services

The app includes all you’d expect from National Rail Enquiries including:

  • The ability to plan your journey using our real time journey planner and purchase tickets
  • ‘Get me home’ which finds the nearest stations to your location & allows you to plan quickly whilst on the go
  • ‘Live trains’ which has live departure and arrival information from across all GB rail stations.
  • Station information is available where you can find a map to the station you’ve chosen along with the address & station facilities. You can save station as your favourite to quickly return to it.
  • In the alerts panel, you have the ability to view journey-specific or disruption alerts for a route which
    you have set up.
  • Alongside this you can switch to alerts from National Rail Twitter feeds which you can tailor to your train company as required. This is so that you can be kept up to date with the latest information on your journey.
Travel Information Twitter
The interchangeable panels allow you to tailor the information you see and switch between screens:

Interchangeable Screens

You can download our new iPad app from here and let us know how you get on with it via our online community.
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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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