Rail passengers to get last mile journey options on WhatsApp

Rail passengers will soon be able to use WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to receive details of transport options for completing journeys after travelling by train.

The new system will feature customised information on all modes of travel including walking, cycling, buses, trams and taxis, industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said.

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Users arriving by train at Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Liverpool and Northampton will even be offered the opportunity to book an e-scooter through rental firm Voi.

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Options will be partly determined by the weather, meaning a taxi ride will not be suggested on a hot day when a short walk is a possibility.

The RDG said the service, developed by technology firm Zipabout, will be available on Facebook Messenger from April 13, before a planned rollout to WhatsApp and SMS “later this spring”.

More than 6.7 million personalised journey updates have been sent to passengers through Facebook Messenger since May 2020, including information on how busy services are, disruption alerts and alternative routes.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “This new technology will allow passengers to benefit from a personalised information service in the palm of their hand, helping them avoid disruption, travel safely and enjoy seamless journeys.”

He added: “Smoother and safer journeys will help passengers travel with confidence and consider new ways to complete their journey.”

RDG director of nations and regions Robert Nisbet said: “As we begin to come out of lockdown we’re doing more to help people make their door-to-door journeys with ease, which is why we’ve worked with Zipabout and Government to provide passengers with a choice of sustainable travel options to help them complete the last mile of their journey when they travel by train.”

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Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “As more people return to public transport in the coming weeks, reliable information will be vital to help passengers plan, avoid busier services and maintain social distancing.”

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Sam Hewitt