Floods, bombs, accidents or strikes are examples of events that may bring travel disruption to a wide area at short notice. Road works, parades, sports events may be known in advance but sometimes the disruptive effects are difficult to predict. Traveline continues to review ways in which it may be able to improve the information it can give when there are incidents.
Increasingly it is likely that information services will be judged on how they perform when there is disruption, rather than when everything is working normally.
Where there is good notice of disruption we would expect that special timetables would already be available in the data and that the journey planners would adjust their recommendations accordingly. On the other hand small delays and cancellations would be expected to be picked up by real time systems and routine management.
Code of Practice
ATOC have a code of practice which provides high level guidance for the rail industry. The following principles are ones that can be applied more widely:
- enable the timely and reassuring provision of correct and consistent information to passengers during major disruption/delays so they can make well-informed travel decisions.
- look for estimates and information from the site of an incident or disruptive event, cause of the delay and production of plans for the restoration of services.
- Establish triggers throughout the operation where "Passenger Information During Disruption" procedures will be followed. These are likely to be both objective and subjective.
- Information at the start of an incident may be sparse and is likely to change over time, but should include an estimate at the earlist opportunity, and be updated at no more than 20 minute intervals.
- The message frequency can be reduced where incidents are on-going in nature.
- Messages should follow the format "Problem, Impact, Advice"
- Review past events and learn for the future
During a major incident or period of bad weather, Traveline retweets messages on @traveline. The source of these messages will usually be the list @traveline/traveller where an attempt is made to follow every transport Operator and transport authority that is active on Twitter.
Experience of following major disruption usually leads to the following pattern of information:
- Something major wrong, corroborated by reports from several sources that seem to be linked
- More certainty about the centre/cause of the disruption
- The wider area affected and secondary consequence
- Predictions for how long the disruption will last
- Transport still running, or advice of alternative routes passengers can use and ticket availability
- Pictures, or reports from those involved
- Messages of appreciation of transport operators and staff
- All clear
When there is no major disruption @traveline tweets information about Traveline activities and commentary on transport issues that will be of general interest. This keeps up the numbers of followers.
On 29 June 2012, Passenger Focus published a report "Short and Tweet. How passengers want social media during disruption"/.
The traveline regions have provided the following information about how they provide information for incidents:
||By written brief to call centre agents with the same document posted on our web site news page.
||Special services for special events are usually - but not necessarily always - included in the data. Large events with significant special services — eg Sunderland Air Show — will be included.
Disruption to services due to roadworks is not generally included, except where there is a major impact or it endures for more than a brief period (eg the closure of Durham Bus Station for 3 months for rebuilding was catered for in the data.)
Interruptions to the Nexus Metro for engineering works are now normally reflected in the data. This has addressed the principal source of problems we have experienced relating to temporary variations to service.
||Within the journey planner data relating to long duration roadworks is included. For short term diversions this is not the case. Occasionally notes on journeyplanner front page refer customer to additional information either via call centre who usually have best information or to other source.
||East Riding — In general, changes have to be notified with sufficient notice and be of long enough duration before they are put on JP
Hull — Both supplied to Call Centre
North Yorks — Road works of less than one month not put on JP and call centre would not know about them; registered road works of more than one month are put on. Special events not put on but Call Centre would be aware.
South Yorks — Short term changes are not put in JP but Call Centre is made aware.
West Yorks — None are put on JP but Call Centre made aware but notification from operators is patchy.
York — Registered road works would be put on JP but notification to Call Centre outside of this has ceased following closure of the local Information office.
||For special events for which special bus services are arranged and PTI Cymru have sufficient notice, the National Eisteddfod of Wales is a good example, new stops and a location are created. They are subsequently removed, post the event.
For traffic disruptions of fewer than four weeks: the Call Centre is notified and a notice is placed on the Alerts page of the traveline Cymru website.
For traffic disruptions of more than four weeks: services are re-tracked, if we have sufficient notice, of the start date. On occasion, the road is dug up well before we are informed, but this will be a common problem, no doubt. PTI Cymru uses AIM‘s holiday Matrix to accommodate the interruption.
||Were services are laid on for special events we use two systems the first is computer based with data residing in the predecessor to EMS Centro‘s hotline, were the data is not available there we use a paper backup. This is usually the only option available outside of the Centro area but we are starting to include Shire information within the hotline system.
The same two systems are used for road works as special events along with the insertion of Text in EMS by call centre supervisors against the services affected. The lack of field length restricts the usefulness of this function. However I have discussed within the call centre a flexible modification to EMS which would identify and allow the display of more comprehensive diversion information. In due course I will raise an RFC for this.
||All registrations received that apply to a special event or road works will be entered onto the journey planner unless the notice given would result in the event having taken place or the road works being finished before the database can be updated.
The East Midlands website has the ability to present a text message which is used for short term travel bulletins.
||Call centre staff and SWPTI partners liaise direct in order to supply information on special events and roadwork‘s. The information if kept on the call centre intranet site where, as all the agents are online, it can be accessed as required.
||The EMS uses data built weekly and it is possible to amend the data to reflect such disruption where the information is to hand about three weeks in advance. However this is a disproportionate effort (needing to be changed back later), and produces poor results when the timing of the end of the disruption is uncertain at the outset. Road closures are often (for example) ”for about 4 weeks• (under a notice allowing the closure to go on for 18 months!) and we generally get no notice of an extension, and less than one day‘s notice of an early finish. Accordingly, most such disruptions are dealt with our ICS system - a method of removing specified services, or specified stops, or specified stops on specified services, or to apply information to any of these three categories that can be made active or removed within seconds of information being received (via an internet interface) and acting on the already built and activated dataset. We have Editors within each local authority (and might consider extending these rights to operators to add weekend cover) with four Chief Editors responsible for checking and releasing messages created. It is not possible to ADD data by this method but we can provide hyperlinks to alternative sources of information, whether this is on local authority, operator or other websites.
Major incidents need to be strategically managed. Decisions have to be made and communicated. We need to consider who is making the decisions, what information arises from the decisions and in what form it should be communicated to the public. It will be just as important to know when the incident is over and special measures and messages can be withdrawn.
The information process has its own role to play. While maintaining the trust and confidence of users it must nevertheless not generate adverse secondary effects if everyone follows the advice given.
tpeg-pti is a European protocol that enables incident messages to be coded. The BBC interprets this information in its travel news and it also appears in the Live travel section of Transport Direct
Suppliers of the Traveline journey planners may also be able to use these messages:
In a fast moving situation users may want to refer to a general information source that is being constantly updated. The DirectGov site was used in this way immediately after the 2005 London bombings. There may be regional sites that can respond in this way too, but they should be checked to ensure that they have the capacity to cope with a lot of people suddenly being referred to them.
- in global warnings for all use of the journey planner
- in travel alerts pages
- in context sensitive ways depending on the journeys requested
There may be some standard context sensitive feeds that can be linked to a journey solution. For example it may be possible to provide a link to the weather forecast for each timing point on a journey solution.
The incidents may affecting a location, or particular part of the data eg a route or depot or mode. We need to explore with the journey planner providers what facilities there are in their systems to adjust the data at short notice. Adjustments may be:
The above are defined elements in the data and a first response may be to ensure that no journey solutions are given out using the data that is suspended. If this is possible the journey planners will try and reroute people via other services. However the greater the area of disruption the more likely it is that services around the edge of the disruption will be overloaded and become incidents also requiring management.
- close road, railway or bridge
- suspend vehicle journey,
- suspend all journeys on a route
- suspend all routes of an operator
Users of the systems will need to know why they are not being given their normal route so an appropriate message needs to be given.
As the emerging situation is assessed it is likely that some of the suspended services will continue to operate but to a modified route or timetable. The permutations are infinite but we will need to establish whether partial adjustments to data can be incorporated. This will take the form of:
Partial information can be a problem if it is assumed that all the other transport is running normally whereas it may be affected in the same way as the services for which there is a datafeed.
- parts of existing data still to operate
- new data to be added temporarily
- the duration may not be known
The capabilities of the software will determine the management needed for Traveline regions to respond to indicents. There could be some level of automation to respond to tpeg-pti, particularly as initial action to display a message or suspend data, especially if the incident is out of operating hours.
Beyond that the decisions of what services are to be operated are likely to be taken outside of Traveline, by the transport operators. The response of traveline will depend on the sophistication and precision in which the decisions can be communicated. If operators are able to provide revised data and their own messages this would be very different from someone having to interpret the message and try and adjust the data accordingly. However there may still be a need to ensure that the messages of individual operators do not mislead passengers especially if one operators response is different from that of another.
Operators will have their own communication systems to inform them of incidents. These are most developed in airports and on the railways. Individual bus operators' are likely to be outside the highways control decision making and so there may be delay until they formulate their respond to incidents.
The efficiency of data request services is not truly exposed until a large load is put on the system.
Monitor and Clear
Whenever temporary messages or data are introduced to systems there must be a procedure to ensure that they will be cleared when the incident is over.
Go back to traveline data
© traveline 2012, Last updated: 3 September 2012