This case study examines the role of digital engagement towards changing passenger behaviour during a major central London blockade over the Christmas 2017 period.
Thameslink Programme carried out an extensive programme of re-signalling and the major completion of London Bridge station between 23 December 2017 and 1 January 2018. The works were set to result in major disruption affecting Southeastern, Southern and Thameslink passengers. Cannon Street, Charing Cross, City Thameslink, Farringdon, much of London Bridge and Waterloo East stations were closed throughout and services to and from Blackfriars, St Pancras, Victoria and Waterloo were also severely affected. Crucially, London terminals shut down earlier than usual on Christmas Eve, affecting last minute Christmas shopping. There were also no trains at all on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Following a previous, successful high-profile blockade campaign in August 2017, Thameslink Programme needed to differentiate its bold, tailored messaging to gain the required cut-through and depress passenger numbers. Passengers would also need to be prepared for the major changes at London Bridge from 2 January, alongside the new timetable affecting three train operators.
The role of digital
The role of digital engagement within the campaign was to contribute towards:
- Notifying passengers of the blockade
- Raising awareness of resulting service changes
- Encouraging behaviour change in support of extreme travel demand suppression requirements of 55%, (20% above the 35% normal suppression at this time of year)
- Driving passengers to online travel planning tools
- Preparing passengers for the opening of London Bridge station’s huge new concourse with five new platforms and an entirely new timetable in operation for Southeastern, Southern and Thameslink passengers.
Changing passenger behaviour – an integrated campaign
The fully integrated Thameslink Programme communications delivery team included the Department for Transport, Network Rail, Govia Thameslink Railway, Southeastern and Transport for London. Over 12 months, the team designed and delivered an effective, phased passenger communication campaign which built on the previous August 2017 campaign.
The campaign was tailored to segmented audiences and delivered via passenger communications, to stakeholders, via traditional media, through internal and supply chain channels – in addition to digital engagement. Personalised impact data was delivered to passengers at 284 stations, clearly explaining the changes and informing them of their alternative travel options.
Digital tools used
A dedicated travel-advice tool was launched three months ahead of the blockade, in October 2017, to enable passengers to understand how their unique travel plans would be affected, and what alternative travel options would be available to them. Online traffic was driven to the tool from both prominent signposting on the core website and a comprehensive, multi-channel social media campaign using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Organic, curated content shared on social channels raised awareness of the blockade, offered detailed travel advice and provided updates on progress before, during and after the works.
The highest volume of content was shared during the 10-day blockade period itself, and included rich media, infographic and text-based content focused on operational changes.
Sentiment was monitored daily – including through Christmas and New Year – enabling messaging to be tailored accordingly and proactive responses delivered to incoming passenger enquiries.
The integrated digital engagement campaign contributed to in the region of 200,000 visits to the travel advice tool. During the 10-day blockade, content curated for Twitter resulted in around 900,000 impressions, swelling visits to the core Thameslink Programme website to 30,000 in this period.
This digital engagement, alongside wider integrated passenger, stakeholder and media campaigns, resulted in high levels of positivity including:
- 49% national awareness of the campaign and 98.4% average passenger awareness across Southeastern, Thameslink and Southern passengers
- 83% behaviour change among targeted passengers
- Excellent feedback from passengers and key stakeholders
- Positive, wide-ranging media and social media coverage across all channels.
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