National Rail Enquiries moves to the cloud

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More than 30 million contacts per month prompts technology migration.

National Rail Enquiries (NRE), Britain’s leading train information service, is migrating its high traffic online services to the cloud. Substantial consumer uptake of its comprehensive real-time travel information has prompted Britain’s leading train information service, National Rail Enquiries, to move the majority of its technology infrastructure to Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The need for the migration also stems from the volatility in demand for NRE’s information – often with very short notice, caused by such incidents as extreme weather conditions through which trains operate 24/7. The volatility requires NRE to retain large estates of capacity which are rarely used.

“Our latest statistics show that customer uptake of our information during the last 11 months has increased by 50%, to more than 30 million customer contacts per month,” said Chris Scoggins, Chief Executive of National Rail Enquiries.

The move to the cloud, which commenced in late January 2013, has seen NRE sign a three-year contract with Ipswich-based technology partner Smart421 to undertake a Service Integration and Management (SIAM) role. This includes service design and readiness, service migration from current data centres to the AWS cloud, and provision of 24-7 service management. As part of this migration NRE will be moving three main business-critical applications to AWS:

  •     Knowledgebase provides the NRE ”home page” and manages and publishes information displayed via the online services.
  •     Online Journey Planner, which allows customers to find the best journey options between any two National Rail locations, based on each customer’s preferences.
  •     Darwin, which is the source of information that feeds all of NRE’s real time services, providing predicted train arrival/departure times at all 2,500 stations across the National Rail network in real time.

These systems also provide more than 400 services to 150 client organisations.

The NRE website offers journey planning and fares information, ticket purchase and on-the-day train running alerts, and provides a range of rail-related information to rail passengers. It is Britain’s most popular travel website, handling more than 2 million enquiries each weekday for more than 16 million customers.

By moving to the cloud NRE will make significant productivity efficiencies, and realise associated cost savings, compared with current arrangements. Additionally, the move to the cloud will give NRE the flexibility to retain its leadership.

“This contract with Smart421 and AWS acknowledges the very significant consumer uptake we have experienced,” said Chris Scoggins.

“In May 2012 we launched our app: it resulted in more than 2.5m customer downloads by the end of December 2012.

“By working with with Smart421 to move to AWS we will be able to support this growth well into the future.

“Getting the most from the cloud means having a partner that understands how to exploit the flexibility and elasticity it offers.”

NRE’s website will be fully supported by Smart421 and will involve a range of technologies in the AWS cloud. Smart421 will manage the scalability features within AWS by deploying tailored automation scripts to match peaks in demand, while minimising infrastructure costs.

As well as giving NRE the ability to grow their technology infrastructure seamlessly as more passengers use the service, using the cloud also gives NRE the option to expand the range of online services it offers customers.

Jason Durk, NRE’s Head of Customer Information, explains: “Rail passengers are looking to get the information they need, when they need it - and through their preferred communications channel.

“We already supply customers with information via apps on multiple platforms, social networks and mobile websites and moving to the cloud gives us the option to expand this further as we strive to offer passengers multiple ways to access the most up-to-the-minute information about their specific train journeys,” he added.

ENDS. For more information on this announcement, please contact National Rail Enquiries’ PR agency: Adams Creative: Jack Ozanne / Karen Danson on 0203 4163 214.

For all enquiries about the Association of Train Operating Companies, please contact the ATOC press team on 0207 841 8020, http://www.atoc.org/media-centre.

For more details on Smart 421 please contact Joseph Spear at Smart421 Marketing, marketing(at)smart421(dot)com or call +44 (0) 1473 421 421.

Background information:

The National Rail Enquiries app: currently available for iOS and Android operating systems, the official app is free to download from iTunes or Google Play and includes a journey planner with real time information about train departures, push notifications, a ‘wake me up alarm’ and a helpful ‘Get me home’ function which uses geolocation technology.

  •     the app has proved very popular already. In December 2012 the app had been downloaded more than 2.5million times.
  •     the mobile website: The National Rail Enquiries mobile website provides travellers with all the speedy information they need to plan their journey using their smartphone. Like the app, the mobile website returns real time information about any delays. http://m.nationalrail.co.uk/pj/home#
  •     alerts by email, Twitter message or SMS: Passengers can create alerts for their favourite journeys or for specific trains; if National Rail Enquiries is aware that relewvant trains are running late by five minutes or more - or are cancelled – the alert will automatically contact them by email, direct Twitter message or SMS. Passengers can manage all their alerts by registering with National Rail Enquiries at no cost.
  •     Twitter: @nationalrailenq: National Rail Enquiries provides dedicated Twitter accounts for all of the train companies, and instantly posts news of disruption on any line. It’s manned by members of staff who can provide answers to questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  •     Facebook.com/nationalrailenq: NRE’s Facebook page provides important updates about new services. NRE’s information team aims to offer prompt answers to passengers’ questions within office hours.

Editor’s notes:

  •     National Rail Enquiries is part of the ATOC family of companies and is owned by the train operators.
  •     NRE has recently developed a TV app for Samsung, LG and Phillips TVs.
  •     to register , and research more information, please visit: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk.
  •     the ad-display on the no-cost version of the NRE app – and the £4.99 charge for the in-app upgrade to the advert-free version – contribute towards the costs NRE incurs in collecting and processing the real time running data and the costs of developing and maintaining its Darwin real time system.
  •     the National Rail Enquiries app is ad-supported and free to download. Customers can upgrade to the ad-free version for £4.99.

For all enquiries about the Association of Train Operating Companies, please contact the ATOC press team on 0207 841 8020, http://www.atoc.org/media-centre.

About Smart421 Ltd:
Smart421 delivers high-end consultancy, integration and service management of business-critical systems for large enterprises operating in regulated markets. It is part of KCOM Group plc, a FTSE250-listed business with an annual turnover of £0.4 billion. It has 1,800 staff.

ENDS.

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Jack Ozanne
Adams Creative
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