Texting your way to better business communications

IT PRO Case Study: Tube Lines, the company responsible for the maintenance and upgrade of infrastructure on London's Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly tube lines, turned to web-based text messaging to improve information distribution

Tube Lines is the London-based company charged with rebuilding the Tube's busiest lines on the London Underground.

It maintains and is upgrading the infrastructure (stations, trains, signals, tracks, etc) on the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines and has been operating since January 2003 when the responsibilities were handed to the company under the London Underground Public Private Partnership.

The business problem

The project was subsequently appointed to Peter Radley, Duty Operations Engineer (DOE) for Tube Lines, who began the selection process to find a brand new system that would enable quicker and more reliable dissemination of information from the Tube Lines Control Centre. Key requirements for the new system included enabling senior managers to communicate with a large number of employees via text message within seconds using a scalable, cost effective platform with universal appeal and a user-friendly interface.

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Why develop this now?

The Control Centre is manned 24-7 with two duty operations engineers (DOEs) and a team of fault handlers. The teams work around the clock to ensure the swift rectification of any fault but the communications hub constantly updates and informs relevant employees of any incidents which could potentially impact Tube Lines operations. Messages are distributed via text message to a list of numbers from a computer in the Control Centre. It was critical that Tube Lines deployed the most effective and reliable method of communicating internally to its workforce, hence the reason why the Tube Lines/TMC project was born.

Implementing the technology

Tube Lines provided the funds for the project and kick-started the scheme by identifying exactly what technology it required. Initially it began testing the TMC technology by conducting trials on a small group of Tube Lines managers. Following the positive feedback received from the management board regarding The Messaging Centre - the technology was then gradually rolled out across the company.

During the initial roll out stage, Tube Lines continued to assess the SMS technology that TMC had provided against its specific requirements - cost, speed, and reliability. It was able to work very closely with The Messaging Centre to ensure that any necessary improvements or bespoke requirements for Tube Lines were met as quickly as were needed. It was also critical to every day business operations and continuity that the migration to the new technology would appear absolutely seamless to people around the company.

The technology from TMC was chosen above numerous other systems due to the cost of savings experienced, reliability and robustness it provided the Tube Lines organisation. As a result, to date, TMC has now been used by the company for over two years and Tube Lines is very pleased with the results.

Results and evaluation

Peter Radley, DOE, Tube Lines commented: "Previously it could take around quarter of an hour to send out all the text messages but now 1,000 messages go within seconds." He continued: "Since deploying the SMS technology from TMC we now have real-time awareness of problems on our lines, enabling a much more rapid response than previously possible."

Sustaining the Tube Lines/TMC project

Peter Radley, DOE, Tube Lines Ltd added: "One key thing we learnt was that we could be demanding on TMC and they would respond. Their support has been excellent and they've never let us down. We asked for some changes to be made to our system, for example by adding a spell checker. These improvements have been made promptly, effectively and without fuss."

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