Metrolink launch new iphone app to keep passengers up-to-date – and MM try it out

By Andrew Cream

A smartphone app has been launched by Transport for Greater Manchester to help Metrolink passengers plan their journey.

The free download currently includes a map of the tram network, with a link to latest service information, and there are plans for real-time information to be added in the future. 

David Hytch, TfGM’s Information Systems Director, said: “I decided we needed to start the process of making the information we had more accessible, particularly through smartphone apps, even though the real time data is not yet available.

“The app will enable people to get access to the network information in a form that is more accessible. This includes station information, routing information and finding a station on the map and with Google maps.

“We appreciate this is not comprehensive but it does allow us to do this for those less familiar to Manchester. It allows us to start to get feedback that will inform on the next version.”

 The app was developed by Wilmslow company, mxData Limited.

Olivia Biviano worked on the project. She said: “There are lots of things that can be added. This is the first phase, so there are other things to be done.

“I know Metrolink are happily reading all the reviews and are looking to improve it as time goes on. But I think initially, it’s nice to have something out there for people to start using even if there is still work to be completed on it. You can see all the new stops and new lines that will be operating later on.”

Ms Biviano explained that as soon as the real-time information becomes available from Metrolink, they will be able to add it to the app immediately.

Mr Hytch added: “The app, which is free and available for iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry, has been downloaded around 12,000 times so far, which is certainly an encouraging sign that passengers want this kind of travel information at their fingertips.”

Philip Purdy, TfGM’s Metrolink Director, said: “The app will offer passengers a new way to quickly and easily plan their journey, with stop locations and a map of current and future Metrolink lines available right in their hand.

“We are also planning to roll out a new tram management system across the Metrolink network, which will ultimately lead to real-time passenger information at all stops the new app will provide an excellent way to share this information with passengers.”

Ms Biviano added: “We’ve been talking to Transport for Greater Manchester and there are obviously other modes of transport out there other than the trams so there are lots of different things that are possible that we could do.”

The app is available from the app store for both iPhone and iPad as well as from Blackberry World, Android Market and the OVI store for Nokia.

MM’s Joshua Powling crash tests the new app to find out how useful it is

Without real-time information the Metrolink smartphone application is a flashy, largely useless addition, even if it is a work in progress.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) intends to develop the app further to provide real-time information, but the application in its current guise does not compare to some of the national rail apps.

Compare the Metrolink app to the Rail Planner Live Application and it does not stand up without the timetables and live information. All of the information could be as easily accessed on the internet through a smartphone, or at the Metrolink stops themselves.

It features a Metrolink map, a feature that allows you to find your nearest Metrolink station through your phone’s GPS, and a gadget telling you which tram to get on and how long a journey is likely to take.  

The application itself is polished, free of bugs, and has a good overall feel, but with the glaring omission of live data, it is more a work in progress than anything else.


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