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How Trainline is looking to predict your journeys before you plan them

Scott Carey | Sept. 7, 2017
The popular rail ticket booking app is starting to leverage its huge pool of historic data to make more accurate journey predictions and save customers money.

Holt says that internally, Trainline believes it can predict where you want to travel to a high degree of accuracy. "In more than 80 percent of cases we know where their destination is going to be, based on all sorts of dimensions, like day of the week, device, time of day," he said. "In 30 percent of cases we know which day they want to travel, based on booking history.

"Then you start to think about leveraging that to create great customer experience, that predictive capability of saying: 'we think there is a good price available today to go to Manchester next Friday night', for example."

Trainline says this tool could save customers an average of 49 percent (up from 43 percent before price prediction) on advance tickets.

For example: a standard class advance single fare from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly route is £32 when booked 80 days before the day of travel, rising to £38 at 41 days before the day of travel, £87 at 2 days before and £126 on the day of travel itself.


Cloud migration

All of this work has been enabled by a major change in technology and culture behind the scenes at Trainline over the past few years.

The first stage on this journey was to modernise the Trainline's underlying infrastructure, migrating from a private data centre in Rotherham into the public cloud with AWS. The 14-month migration was completed 18 months ago and has led to annual savings of £1.2 million a year in capital expenditure (capex), while operational expenditure has remained flat, according to Holt.

Trainline is now a headline AWS customer, with Holt's colleague Chris Turvil, head of cloud and platform agility, presenting on stage at the cloud giant's annual re:invent conference in 2016. So it's not surprise that his logic for choosing Amazon over its rival vendors comes down to them being "more awesome", as he told Computerworld UK.

By migrating to the cloud, and breaking up its monolithic application into smaller bits, the engineers at Trainline can focus on continuous delivery of incremental upgrades to the user experience, rather than massive updates.

"It used to be a six weekly release that landed with a thud and everyone would wince, so change was something to be afraid of," Holt explained. "If you go back to our experience three years ago, it is very different, but we have got there with a whole load of tiny increments.

"We test everything, so we do a lot of multi variant testing to ensure customers are using and liking the functionality we build. People are able to throw something out there, run a test and go from there."


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