Company: Travel InfoSystemsCustomer: Swindon TICSubmitted by: MCC InternationalDate: Summer 1999The Swindon Tourist Information Centre provides a wide-ranging information for both visitors and local residents. Their office, located in Regent Street, central Swindon, serves up to 18,000 customers per month, of which roughly 25% < require accurate travel information. They pride themselves on providing a proactive customer-focused service to both ‘serve’ and promote tourism in the Borough of Swindon and meet the needs of the towns affluent and growing population. It may be argued that the provision of travel information is outside the remit of TICs and should be provided by rail and bus companies, but the Swindon TIC’s management feel that this is an integral part of tourism.Mike Crowley, Swindon TIC’s visitor services manager explains, “In order to promote the Borough of Swindon more proactively, we know we have to attract customers by providing a comprehensive service.
To provide people with information on places to visit we have to be able to tell them how to get there. We could refer visitors to the train operator, but our staff want to provide the best possible service.” However to do this is not an easy task, especially given the complexity and frequent updates to the national rail timetable. But the consumer has a right to accurate data, especially because as Crowley points out, “I know of at least one case where a TIC was the subject of a compensation claim because they had supplied inaccurate rail information!”To provide accurate and reliable fulfilment of this customer demand, Swindon TIC bought Travel info Systems’ RailPlanner in July 1998. RailPlanner is interactive journey planning software covering the entire UK rail network. The user simply enters the starting point and the destination of their journey and RailPlanner will calculate the rest.
The software’s flexibility and simple design means itineraries can easily be tailored to calculate the most complex of tourist’s journeys, which might include multiple stop-off points or even the avoidance of certain stations.In describing the benefits of implementing RailPlanner, Crowley states “It is user-friendly and staff enjoy using it, in contrast with the printed version of national rail timetable, with its complicated format, small print and endless footnotes. Since privatisation, it has become more difficult to obtain supplies of the pocket timetables to give to the public. Even where these are available they are specific to only one rail operating company and may not give details of all the services available on a particular route. RailPlanner generates all the services and identifies the operators. What makes it even better suited to providing tourist information is that all the data – including different travel options around a certain time – can be included on a printout which the enquirer can take away with them.
“At only one hour away by train, London is a very popular day-trip destination for both Swindon’s residents and visitors using the town as a touring base. This is why, following their satisfaction with RailPlanner, Swindon TIC installed Travel Info Systems’ sister product TubePlanner in September 1999. This provides day-trippers and business travellers with detailed information on the London Underground network. Crowley comments, “We have always stocked an extensive range of London tourist information, but TubePlanner has enabled us to provide a range of information that was not previously available. We can not only use it to plan complex journeys with details of times and fares, but it also gives us the ability to find the nearest tube station to places of interest, such as theatres or even streets which customers may already have on their itinerary.
“As with many public services, Swindon TIC’s relatively tight budget makes them sceptical of ‘IT for the sake of IT’, but this is not the case with RailPlanner or TubePlanner. Crowley concludes, “I think both products are outstanding examples of effective exploitation of IT in terms of improved service delivery, cost-effectiveness and user friendliness. RailPlanner is greatly appreciated by our customers, it speeds and enhances the service we can offer them and saves staff time all at what is a relatively low cost.”