Sunday, March 09, 2003

Text congestion

Kablenet reports success for Capita in handling drivers paying the congestion charge by text. Apparently 25% of payments are coming in by text which, based on the figures in the article, would mean about 125,000 mesasges a week. That's not bad at all. Frankly though, it seems to me that the process has been made as difficult as possible - you aren't allowed, for instance, to lodge your credit card number in the system and have them debit you when you enter the zone. Methinks there's a reason for this and, if I were John Lettice, I'd assume that it's either because the recognition software isn't good enough or because they want the process to be so hard people are discouraged from coming to London in their droves. If it's the latter, perhaps that's the point - but that means not as much money for investment as hoped I guess. A neat process to add to the text payment system would be for you to receive a text when you entered the zone (once you've signed up for that service). You could then reply that indeed it's you and have them debit your mobile phone bill, credit card, bank account or stored value, whatever. But again, that needs good recognition software and a willingess to make the service easy to use. Neither of those seem to be relevant. And "TfL was forced to apologise to drivers on 27 February 2003, however, following the failure of its web payment service caused by a hardware error. The site was down between 9.00pm and 2.00am, but based on the previous day’s payments, TfL believes that this would only have affected a fraction of the 1% wishing to pay the daily charge online. The web failure is "no excuse" for non payment, according to TfL, as other payments channels were all open." That's some hardware error to force a site down for 5 hours. Maybe they don't have onsite people so it was 2 hours to notice, 2 hours to get there and an hour to fix. I can't think of a hardware error that would cause an outage that long, if the system is built in a resilient fashion. But it's good to know that it's up to you to go find another payment channel. I wonder what happened to text messages sent during that period?

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