Management & Operations

London rail, Twitter piloting live alerts for 'severe delays'

Posted on June 14, 2016

Photo: London Attractions Guide/Flickr
Photo: London Attractions Guide/Flickr

Transport for London (TfL) and Twitter began piloting a world-first service whereby customers will be automatically alerted of severe delays on key London Underground and TfL rail services as soon as they occur, helping them to avoid disruption.

The innovative pilot, developed exclusively with Twitter, will allow anyone who follows any combination of four existing TfL Twitter feeds (London Overground, TfL Rail, Central line and District line) to be able to opt-in to receive instant notifications about severe disruption.

Currently, obtaining live travel information via Twitter means having to visit the relevant account or searching through your timeline for the latest tweets. This pilot will, for the first time, allow notifications to be sent straight to customers' mobile devices while they are on the go, or direct to their computer, free of charge as a "Direct Message." This will mean that customers can be informed immediately and avoid disruption.

To opt in, customers just need to visit http://tfl.gov.uk/twitter-alerts and select the lines for which they would like information. They can also tailor their notifications by selecting the time periods that they would like to receive alerts, meaning they can avoid unnecessary alerts outside of commuting hours or at weekends if they don't need them.

This is the first time that Twitter has partnered with a transport authority to provide live travel information in this way. TfL will be assessing feedback from the pilot over the summer and, dependent on customer feedback, the service could be extended to other TfL Twitter feeds and used to alert drivers of disruption on key road corridors.

"Getting the latest travel information direct to customers when and where they want it is key to enabling them to avoid delays," said Phil Young, head of online at TfL.

The pilot with Twitter is part of TfL's wider work to make information freely and openly available to developers to assist them in creating better products and services more quickly. The data is being provided through TfL's Unified Application Programme Interface (API), which allows developers to have the latest travel information about all TfL services, as well as additional information about road conditions, speed limits and collision data.

Around 8,200 developers are registered for TfL's Unified API, with more than 2,000 new developers signed up to access live information in the last six months. As smartphone usage for travel information continues to increase, almost 500 apps are directly powered by this open data, providing Londoners with up-to-the-minute information about public transport and the road network.

Last month, TfL added a favourites function to tfl.gov.uk, making it easier for customers to personalise their travel information. Customers just need to go to tfl.gov.uk and click or tap on the star in the top right corner of the screen. This will bring up a favorites menu which will allow people to save their most frequently used Tube lines, tram line or river bus line, as well as receive details about major roads, bus routes or specific bus stops. These services will then be prioritized on the tfl.gov.uk homepage so customers can quickly check the status of their most frequently used line or route more easily.

Further improvements to the website will be made throughout the year, including the ability to "favorite" specific journeys so customers can tell if there is any disruption along their regular routes. Improvements are also planned for the Oyster and Contactless payment account webpages to help make it easier for people to register their cards and get information about their recent journeys.


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