One of the key things I'd like to see LNER improve is the information that they send their passengers. The go to page for information should be the 'Service updates' page with more important information also sent out via Twitter. If a customer has booked direct important service information should be sent by email or SMS (depending on contact preferences). It might be a good idea that passengers could also sign up for email or SMS alerts for their train even if they didn't book direct (or they booked a flexible ticket and didn't specify a train).

Improving the service updates page

This is something I think is quite important, at the moment the updates section has three headings - service updates, catering updates and timetable changes. It's very rare that catering updates are posted to this page and the service updates section seems to list everything whether it's issues with the accessible toilets, cancellations, delays, shortforms or reservation issues. 

It would make sense to separate the issues into different categories. Those who rely on the availability of accessible toilets would appreciate this all in one section, the accessible toilet information should also be provided for the whole day so that passengers who need this facility have more time to plan ahead if there's problems with their booked service. 

Suggested sections would be: accessibility updates, catering updates, reservation changes (and shortforms), disruption (delays and cancellations), set issues (known issues that don't fit in another category such as air con failures, WiFi issues or if there's a borrowed set things like lack of sockets) and station issues (faulty lifts, ticket offices closing early, etc).

Having this information in separate sections should help people find what they're looking for quickly and quickly bypass what they're not concerned with.

Disruptions

The information in major disruptions could be immensely improved. At the moment VTEC produced some PDFs (I don't know if they've been LNER branded yet) which showed alternative routes to East Coast destinations from St Pancras, Euston and Liverpool Street. The problem with this approach is it doesn't take into account where the disruption is and also which operators acceptance is organised on, you need to use these maps alongside the written description of ticket acceptance. What would be great is an interactive version of these maps which shows where the disruption is on a line diagram and which alternative routes are valid. This would effectively be an interactive version of the current disruption maps which in the event of disruption would highlight the routes that are currently valid.

The difference between this and Trainmapper is Trainmapper shows the location of disruption on a geographical map and then clicking it shows more information whereas this would be highlighting the alternative routes on a line diagram (tube map style) making the options simpler to understand. I can imagine a lot more people would understand their options on a diagram rather than just a list of operators.

In-app

Currently the Travel Buddy app doesn't do very much, it would be good to have an app that could be a true assistant. If there's disruption it could let you know your options and once electronic seat reservations are rolled out it could even offer to reserve a seat on the alternative service should space be available. If the only alternatives are departing from a different station (e.g. Euston) the app should be able to give walking directions to the new station. The app should also notify passengers of less significant issues (e.g. catering) that affect their service so they can plan ahead as well as air conditioning failures so passengers can move their seat (if space is available) before departure.

The app can improve information flow in both directions. If a passenger notices a fault then they should be able to log it in the app. Details of the service the passenger is on (including coach letter) should be prefilled if they're connected to the WiFi as it should be possible to work out this information. This would make it easier to report faults saving the time of both the social media staff (who often get tweeted about the faults) and those on-board. If a fault can be investigated remotely (air conditioning can be monitored remotely unless the system has completely failed) it can immediately be directed to the correct team.

On social media

The most important information that can be provided on Twitter (other forms of social media tend not to be used for this purpose) is for service disruption. It's beneficial if this would be used to also alert passengers if something has changed from the early morning status reports (e.g. if a set is out of place due to earlier disruption) so they know to check the status page again. Getting the balance right is key as too much information may be off putting for some (too many LNER posts appear in their feed), generally speaking most people when they're not travelling aren't interested in the status reports.

On board

Many passengers will have devices they can use to look up information online but information screens such as those being trialed in one of the mk 4 sets can provide passengers with useful information about connections. In times of disruption this will help passengers that either have no internet access or are unsure where to look find out what there options are, this will mean on-board staff will have more time to concentrate on passengers with more complex onward requirements. For those with internet access having access to an online chat facility via the on-board WiFi that automatically tells the advisor which train you're travelling on could be helpful for those seeking information in the event of a disruption.

Conclusion

The main priority should be making use of the service updates page to its full potential. To begin with make use of what's already there and update the catering information section when it's needed. Then going forward they need to separate the service information into categories so passengers can quickly get at the info they need.

Once that's done it's time to look at the options technology can bring in dealing with disruptions, the app should be able to guide the passenger through routine disruptions such as cancellations and missed connections, options should be clear and easy to understand.

The most important thing to remember is that knowledge is power. Don't let a passenger have to wait until they've boarded the train to find out that their carriage has no air conditioning, the catering is off and the toilets are out of service!