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@uktrains is no longer operating

Page history last edited by Ben Smith 13 years, 2 months ago

@uktrains stopped operating on 4th May 2011


Some breaking good news from the team at National Rail Enquiries (who's services we recommend you switch to)...
Their service to send you journey-specific alerts (previously offered by SMS at 25p per disruption 'event') now also operates by Twitter DM for free.

If anything gave us confidence that ATOC are making progress in this area, this does.

Try the service for yourself here:  http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/alerts


What was @uktrains?


For full details and a full list of accounts see the original front page.


@uktrains was an unofficial train disruption Twitter service for UK rail travellers. It was:



The service first gained significant use (and some media coverage) in February 2009 when heavy snow caused mass travel disruption and caused many official sources of alerts to fail.


The service operated for approximately two and a half years, was followed by over 10,000 almost 20,000 people at peak and issued over 50,000 over 85,000 travel tweets. [Corrected]


Why is @uktrains shutting down?


The BBC has ended the excellent Backstage project which was the source for the bulk of the data. Although crowd-sourced data augmented the BBC-provided alerts these alone are not sufficient for the service to remain viable. This has affected all the other services using this data too.


What should @uktrains users do now?


National Rail Enquiries now run a set of official Twitter accounts tweeting travel information for UK operators. This is the best general replacement for the @uktrains service.


A number of rail companies are also providing customer service directly via Twitter now too. Ben is now maintaining a Twitter list of these accounts.


Ben is still happy to take comments or questions on the service and his contact details are still available.


Did @uktrains achieve anything?


A message from Ben:


The @uktrains service led to the creation of National Rail Enquiries own official service and I've since met with staff from ATOC (who operate National Rail Enquiries) on a number of occasions to offer support, suggestions and (occasional) constructive criticism. This has always been well received and the enthusiasm of the ATOC team gives me confidence that the official service will improve even further over time. I'll happily continue to offer ATOC as much support as they would like from the creation and operation of @uktrains.


I'd also like to thank a small but reliable group who fed crowd-sourced alerts into the system. These were invaluable during major incidents, adding information and context that the official sources often lack. I'd urge you to keep tweeting about your travel experiences and to let National Rail Enquiries know how you would like their service to develop - they are listening.


We have influenced rail operators' attitudes towards communicating with customers via social media - we can continue to do so.


The Future


Despite the positive progress since @uktrains was first established there's still a way to go:


  1. Most train companies still need to engage with their customers better through Twitter and social media. Those without any presence should follow the lead of those already providing excellent customer service such as Chiltern and London Midland.

  2. National Rail Enquiries should continue to improve their Twitter (and Facebook) services by automating them for greater accuracy and speed. Adding geographic data to tweets will also be increasingly important in future as location-based services grow in popularity.

  3. ATOC should open far more of its data sources for public use so independent developers can help them to help rail users. The complexity and limitations currently in place should be re-visited and data should be given away for free in future - having already been paid for by rail travellers (this does not preclude National Rail from producing their own paid-for services / apps for consumers but would allow greater choice / competition).

  4. Network Rail and The Office for Rail Regulation should read this post and act on its recommendations around opening their data sources too. Perhaps even (gasp!) in a co-ordinated effort with ATOC.


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