Trains, planes…and rail replacement bus services

Transport, Travel & Tourism Blog

Lynn Tweedale

One of the things I noticed recently is the interactive use of social media when commuting – not for catching up on your own personal life, but for communication between service providers and customers.

What once used to be more one-sided tweets/posts from travellers about their train service has become much more of a two-way relationship.  Social media has become a real-time and public way of keeping customers up to date, to engage with them in a more personal way, and is now very much a part of some train companies PR strategies.

As a car driver myself, the best I can hope for when stuck in a traffic jam is the travel bulletin in the middle of my Absolute Radio sing-along session, but how rarely do they mention your blockage when you need it?  And how can I ask them for more…whilst my hands are legally firmly on the wheel?

When the departure boards at Waterloo are blank and I’m queuing for the rail replacement bus service, @nationalrailenq are updating their 214k followers on the disruption, and doing their best to explain the problems to commuters.

But similarly, Twitter can also be public domain for a rant.  If our most recent third wave of Social Life research is anything to go by, more and more customers are now ‘Bash-tagging’ train companies on Twitter, with Virgin Trains making an entrance for the first time.  This could be the stuff of nightmares for the brand managers, but how they respond, and how quickly these are handled can build a customer relationship.

One example I saw recently where a potential bash-tagging of Virgin trains was quickly turned around into an impressive customer interaction was from someone travelling from Birmingham to Milton Keynes on one of their Pendolino trains.  After hearing some worrying noises from where he was seated, he tweeted @virgintrains alerting them to the noise.  After correspondence from a cheery customer relations representative asking for more details, the alarm was passed to Alstom who maintain the trains, and the train manager who drew the train to a halt to fix the problem.

This demonstrates the power social media can have when used to its best effect, and if travel providers haven’t already, they need to be interacting and monitoring what their customers are saying about them.

Don’t worry, I won’t go off on my high-horse about our Social Life research and what it’s saying about you, but if you’re interested, follow the link.

…aaaand I’m back in my SouthWest Trains economy seat.


  • Customer Communication
  • Customer Experience
  • Trains