Train passengers offered journey updates via WhatsApp

·2-min read
Passengers can sign up by planning their journey using the National Rail Enquiries website (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Archive)
Passengers can sign up by planning their journey using the National Rail Enquiries website (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Archive)

Britain’s rail passengers can now receive alerts by WhatsApp when their train is delayed or cancelled.

Industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said travellers can get tailored information about disruption, alternative routes and how busy carriages are expected to be through the messaging app.

The alerts were previously only available through Facebook Messenger.

As people working from home begin commuting to their place of work again, we want to ensure they’re able to travel with confidence, which is why we are providing passengers access to personalised journey information via the channels they use the most

Jacqueline Starr, RDG

The service has been added to WhatsApp as part of efforts to support passengers returning to work and education after the summer holidays.

Passengers can sign up by planning their journey using the National Rail Enquiries website and clicking “Keep me updated by WhatsApp”.

Nearly three million personalised journey updates have been sent during the coronavirus pandemic.

RDG chief executive Jacqueline Starr said: “As people working from home begin commuting to their place of work again, we want to ensure they’re able to travel with confidence, which is why we are providing passengers access to personalised journey information via the channels they use the most.

“Customers who use the National Rail Alert Me service and travel frequently, or decide to take a less busy train if their chosen service is predicted to be busy, could get themselves a free drink or snack as part of a retail pilot that we’re exploring as one of the ways to incentivise people back to rail.”

Alert Me by WhatsApp is not a chatbot and is the first instance of anyone using the app to share personalised updates in real-time on their preferred, pre-existing communication channels

Alex Froom, Zipabout

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “This is a brilliant new way of making rail journeys even easier.

“By sending helpful updates through the apps people already use, passengers can get the information they need quickly, simply and wherever they are on the rail network.”

Data on passenger demand is being supplied using a system developed by technology firm Zipabout.

The company’s chief executive Alex Froom said: “WhatsApp is the most popular app in the UK and presents a great opportunity for the rail industry to engage with a huge audience.

“Alert Me by WhatsApp is not a chatbot and is the first instance of anyone using the app to share personalised updates in real-time on their preferred, pre-existing communication channels.”

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