A new powerful booking engine developed by South West Trains is the first of its kind to be created by a train operator. It will drive both the southwesttrains.co.uk website and mobile app, searching for the cheapest available fares that can often be unavailable through third party rail websites and other booking engines.
Feedback from passengers and staff has been integral to the design of the new website and iOS app. Customer experience experts and South West Trains also compared booking tools available through popular retailers with the company’s existing website and other ticket purchase channels used by customers.
The new digital tools provide a simpler, more flexible and intuitive system. Key features include:
- Clean, modern layout
- Simple online booking system
- Option to buy tickets using Smartcard system
- Easy navigation
- Responsive website that adapts to different versions of smartphones, tablets and desktops
David Sidebottom, Passenger Team Director for Transport Focus, said: "We're pleased to see that passengers' views were taken on board when designing the new site. Anything that helps passengers make better choices when buying tickets, and to get timely and accurate journey information, is to be welcomed."
The new South West Trains website is also part of an overall £11 million digital investment strategy by parent company Stagecoach Group, one of the UK’s biggest bus and rail operators. Stagecoach Group has already launched a new bus online platform, providing live tracking of every bus and ticket purchase direct from a smartphone.
A new Android app will be launched as part of a second phase of improvements for South West Trains passengers later this year. It will also include a ‘My Account’ facility and an enhanced contact section.
The new website has been developed by digital agencies Huge and Zone, Vix Technology and SilverRail.
Scott Shaw, User Experience Director at Huge, said: “Delivering a first-class digital experience is all about understanding and anticipating individual customer needs and journeys. It’s great to be working with a brand that embraces innovation and is committed to putting the user at the very heart of its strategy.”
Dominic Mills, Chief Technology Officer of Zone, said: “There is a clear need to create a better online passenger experience across the sector. We’re starting to see the established, traditional brands and services such as Stagecoach take on the digital age’s newcomers and beat them at their own game, with even more ambitious, more useful, more seamless and more customer-oriented digital services.”
Bryan Simms, Managing Director of Vix Technology, NEE said: “The Vix central booking engine will provide South West Trains with full control over all their retail channels, adapting as customer requirements and technology changes. It’s empowered the organisation to bring about a real step-change in the UK rail industry for the benefit of the travelling public.”
Cameron Jones, Chief Commercial Officer of SilverRail said “We were delighted to be selected by Stagecoach to provide the industry’s leading journey pricing engine ‘SilverSearch’ to power the central booking engine. This marks yet another UK rail owning group taking back control of their sales channels enabling them to deliver a much improved customer experience that rail travellers now expect”
South West Trains is continuing to seek feedback from customers on the new website and app. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
More than £50million is being invested by South West Trains to improve the service offered to passengers. Other improvements include extra car parking, 100 new Customer Ambassadors to provide a more personalised service at stations, and state-of-the-art ticket machines linked to a new dedicated 24/7 customer contact centre.