London Gets New WAP Travel Service

[London, ENGLAND] A new Internet-based service announced
Thursday will help users find their way around the various
modes of transport in London via WAP-enabled mobile phones.

Developed by Transport for London (TfL) in partnership with
information provider Kizoom, the real-time travel information
service will cover Tube (subway), bus, Docklands Light Railway
(DLR) and Thames River services.

Ken Livingstone, London’s first elected mayor, said the new
service would make getting around London much more predictable.
He claimed that it would make “journeys easier, more comfortable
and less stressful.”

“Now Londoners and commuters can get up-to-the-minute travel
information on Tube, bus, DLR and Thames River services anywhere
and at any time, simply and at the touch of a button,” said
Livingstone.

But will the service tell you exactly when the next bus will
arrive? Unfortunately no. Nor will it translate TfL minutes
(such as are shown on indicator boards in stations for Train 1,
Train 2, etc.) into actual minutes as used by everyone else.

The new WAP service will simply relay information about
disruption to services on the subway, line-by-line. For the
relatively quiet Docklands Light Railway it will indicate
departure times and give information on a station-by-station
and platform-by-platform basis. As for the buses — they are
covered with just long-term information on disruption and
diversions.

There is every reason to believe that Londoners and visitors
alike want to see fast, reliable transport services rather
than have information about how slow and unreliable they are.
Nonetheless, the people behind the new WAP service have
defended the project robustly.

“This new real-time travel information from TfL is exactly the
kind of application that people want via their mobile phone,”
said Kizoom founder and Chief Technical Officer Nick Knowles.

“It puts the information in their hands, letting them make smarter
decisions about how they manage their lives,” said Knowles.

Travelers certainly complain about lack of information when
delays occur, as witness the reactions of passengers earlier
this week on a Virgin rail trip from Newcastle to Plymouth that
took 16 hours. Kizoom also reports that on the first day of the
petrol crisis in September 2000 it recorded a 40 percent
increase in WAP enquires about national rail services.

Yet city travel is different. The would-be traveler wants
to know: How do I get there? and When is the next train
or bus?

The service from www.tflwap.gov.uk may have its uses, but
it really answers neither of these questions fully.

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