Social Media as a Tool to Understand Behaviour on the Railways

Social Media as a Tool to Understand Behaviour on the Railways

David Golightly (University of Nottingham, UK) and Robert J. Houghton (University of Nottingham, UK)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3176-0.ch010


Social media plays an increasing role in how passengers communicate to, and about, train operators. In response, train operators and other rail stakeholders are adopting social media to contact their users. There are a number of opportunities for tapping this big data information stream through the overt use of technology to analyse, filter and present social media, including filtering for operational staff, or sentiment mapping for strategy. However, this analysis is predicated on a number of assumptions regarding the manner in which social media is currently being used within a railway context. In the following chapter, we present data from studies of rail social media that shed light on how big data analysis of social media exchange can support the passenger. These studies highlight important factors such as the broad range of issues covered by social media (not just disruption), the idiosyncrasies of individual train operators that need to be taken into account within social media analysis, and the time critical nature of information during disruption.
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As recently as the beginning of this decade (Houghton and Golightly, 2011) few passengers, and fewer operators, actively used social media for anything other than marketing. Since then the landscape has changed dramatically, with many transport operators worldwide using social media as a means to communicate with their passengers. In a global survey of social media use in transport operations in 2013, 86% of operators preferred to use Twitter, 33% use Facebook, and only 12% of the operators not using any form of social media (Pender et al., 2013). More recent work with public transit (i.e. not just rail) in the US reports adoption rates by transport operators of 100% for Twitter (Liu et al., 2016). In Great Britain, all major train operating companies have active accounts, as does the main train information service channel (National Rail Enquiries), the infrastructure manager (Network Rail), as well as major stations and British Transport Police (Golightly and Durk, 2016).

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