Consistent and accurate journey cancellation information for customers
A small user interface change, driven by multiple data sources, with a huge impact on customers planning journeys by bus and operators managing their services.
2nd Jan 2024
Over the last two years our Cities roadmap has been working towards our most recent app update. Launched in December 2023, all Passenger apps across the UK have been updated to include the capability to display cancelled bus journeys on their departure boards. A small user interface change, driven by multiple data sources, with a huge impact on customers planning journeys by bus and operators managing their services.
We use the term Cities to refer to the stream within our product capability that focuses on everything of utility to customers; from journey planning and bike share integrations, to the real time systems that help them make decisions as they travel the bus networks we support. This side of the coin is usually experienced first as it is often the step before purchasing a ticket for a journey that’s been planned. We call this our Commerce stream. In a nod to Conway’s Law, much of our business is structured around these two core tenets.
Across a number of iterative updates to our consumer facing applications and the supporting back-end systems, we’ve been working to ensure that customers have the most up to date journey cancellation information at their fingertips. Like every thing we do, this focus has been driven by engagement with our operator teams, across every UK area that our Customer Success and Product teams work in.
As an industry, local bus services have faced a number of challenges following the impact of the Covid pandemic. One of the key challenges has been the shortage of drivers needed to run the timetabled network. This has resulted in journeys being cancelled at short notice, with the knock on challenge of communicating this effectively to affected customers.
As ever, we’ve worked closely with key third-party suppliers, the Department for Transport and its Bus Open Data Service development partners, to ensure that everything we’ve built makes the process of managing this information easier for operators. One of the most important considerations has been to remove the double-keying of information to multiple IT systems that display and feed real time information, whilst at the same time providing easy-to-use tools where no existing solutions are available.
From 19th December 2023, operators now have the choice of displaying cancelled journeys on departure boards, so they can provide clarity for customers by making it explicit that a specific journey is cancelled.
Operators can configure their journey cancellation settings in Passenger Cloud by navigating to Network, Journey Cancellations, and then selecting a new Settings option from the left-hand menu.
Selecting ‘Show cancelled journeys’ will mean that cancelled journeys will always be displayed on departure boards. Alternatively, in a more advanced configuration, operators can show that a journey is cancelled except when it is followed by the same service within X minutes, by selecting ‘Show cancelled journeys unless there is a duplicate service arriving within X minutes’. With this option, operators can ensure their customers see cancellations in specific situations, but not in others.
Importantly, if the service is high frequency and the following service is less than X minutes away, then the cancellation will not display because the customer can catch the next bus – and won’t be discouraged through overzealous communication.
Dan Claydon, Product Manager at Passenger, comments “These changes balance the desire of operators to communicate effectively with customers when things change at short notice, with not putting them off using the services by presenting the information in a way that provides confidence. Good communication when things go wrong is critical to achieving this.”
Where cancellations feed into Passenger apps from external data sources, we also apply these settings so that the behaviour is predictable for operators and consistent for customers – one of the most important factors when choosing public transport over the car.