UK rail industry launches Alert Me by Messenger passenger service

Posted: 8 May 2021 | | No comments yet

The Alert Me by Messenger technology provides rail passengers with the available transport options and information regarding disruption and crowding.

Rail companies across England increase services following lockdown

Credit: Rail Delivery Group

UK rail passengers returning to the train over the coming months will be able to feel even more in control of their journeys with the launch of a new feature that will send them the available transport options to help them to complete the last leg of their journey with ease.

The Alert Me by Messenger technology – which was announced by the UK’s Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, in May 2020 – tells rail users how disruption and crowding may affect their journey, providing alternative routes and helping people to maintain social distancing when they need to travel. This service will also be made available to customers via WhatsApp in spring 2021 and offered by most train companies by the end of the year. 

The new feature, which has been developed by British company Zipabout, is the first of its kind to be made available nationwide and will provide train users throughout Britain with weather sensitive transport options to help them to complete their journey after taking the train.

Using what3words, in addition to other location feeds, passengers will receive customised travel information that includes travel duration and all modes of transport available. Micro-mobility – including Voi’s e-scooters – will be listed alongside all other passenger transport options, including bus, bike and walking. Where e-scooters are available, passengers will be able to book their e-scooter from their seat and collect it from the scooter hire on arrival.

Since May 2020, National Rail has sent over 6.7 million personalised journey updates to passengers as part of its safer travel pledge during the pandemic. The updates include busyness alerts that are based on unique forecast demand data, disruption information and alternative travel routes.

Users can be safe in the knowledge that they will be provided with the most up-to-date information about their journey in a way that’s most convenient to them. What’s more, the information provided will cover any delays greater than 10 per cent of the total journey time, so they’ll know straight away if they need to adjust their plans or will be eligible for compensation.

Alert Me by Messenger is just one of a number of measures that the UK rail industry has introduced whilst passengers have been away in order to make journeys better for when they come back. Around £6 billion has been invested in the improvements to the network since the pandemic started.

Since the first national lockdown in England (16 March 2020), rail companies have:

  • Refunded over £540 million to customers whose travel plans changed
  • Designed timetables to meet passenger demand and maximise services where necessary at the busiest stations and times of day to make extra room to help with social distancing
  • Worked with the British Transport Police (BTP) to further improve face covering compliance
  • Installed hand sanitiser points in over 300 stations
  • Been using powerful anti-viral cleaning products and cleaning trains and stations more frequently, in addition to ventilation systems fitted on most trains, which refresh air in the carriage every six minutes.

Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions at the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), the company that manages National Rail on behalf of the rail industry, said: “As we begin to come out of lockdown, we’re doing more to help people to make their door-to-door journeys with ease, which is why we’ve worked with Zipabout and the government to provide passengers with a choice of sustainable travel options to help them to complete the last mile of their journey when they travel by train.”

“As part of our safer travel pledge, we want to help passengers to travel with confidence, which is why the industry has been developing innovative technology to help them to travel at quieter times and find alternative routes if their chosen train is delayed or predicted to be busy,” he added.

To tackle the spread of coronavirus, people should follow UK government guidance and keep their journeys to a minimum. Anyone planning to travel should plan ahead, wear a face covering unless exempt, wash their hands before and after their journey and socially distance where possible.

The UK’s Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “This new technology will allow passengers to benefit from a personalised information service in the palm of their hand, helping them to avoid disruption, travel safely and enjoy seamless journeys. As we build back better from this pandemic, smoother and safer journeys will help passengers to travel with confidence and consider new ways to complete their journey.”

Anthony Smith, Chief Executive of Transport Focus, said: “As more people return to public transport in the coming weeks, reliable information will be vital to help passengers to plan, avoid busier services and maintain social distancing. In our research, passengers found the Alert Me by Messenger service simple and easy to use and valued the ability to adjust their plans if they knew about disruption or potential crowding on services.”