Travel information from National Rail is now available through WhatsApp after a new service is launched.
The groundbreaking service uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) which has been created by Zipabout and now incorporates WhatsApp to provide real-time personalised journey updates for customers with useful information such as delays, disruption and alternative route options even before they set off for the station. WhatsApp is one of the most popular private communications platforms in the world.
The ‘Alert Me by WhatsApp’ service marks a significant change in how passengers receive information about their journey by providing communications using the most popular apps and platforms, which gives a more efficient and effective solution to keep passengers up to date on their travels.
To date, National Rail has sent around 3 million personalised travel updates for customers, which is part of their Safer Travel Pledge during the pandemic, which have included busyness alerts, disruption information and also alternative routes.
Customers using the Alert Me facility between now and October can also choose to get rewards such as a free coffee from railway station retailers like Upper Crust whilst out on their journey. This added extra is part of a retail trial to benefit customers for travelling by rail or by opting for an alternative service if their train is busy.
The rail industry has taken a number of steps to support passengers as they get back to the workplace and education following the summer holidays, these include Alert Me by WhatsApp, enhanced cleaning and ventilation on trains and also the introduction of the Flexi Season ticket which offers commuters more flexibility to split their time between home and office.
To get on board with the new journey planning service passengers can use the National Rail Enquiries website and simply click ‘Keep me updated by WhatsApp’.
Jacqueline Starr, Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), the company that manages National Rail on behalf of the rail industry, 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.”
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.”
Dan Lenan, Director of Partnerships at WhatsApp, said: “WhatsApp is already used by millions of people around the world to connect with businesses, to ask questions and order a product or service. This partnership truly leverages the power of messaging on WhatsApp to connect consumers to their specific journey. The service makes great use of the features available to businesses on the WhatsApp API, and is a great example of the potential of messaging via an automated 1:1 channel.”
Alex Froom, Chief Executive of Zipabout, 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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