ATOC Weathers the Storms to Stay on Track During Peak Winter Travel Season

NRE website at heart of over 600 million annual journey enquiries

London, UK, 24th February 2016 – SOASTA, the leader in performance analytics, today announced that ATOC (Association of Train Operating Companies) has extended its use of CloudTest On-Demand platform for the National Rail Enquires (NRE) website. The merits of the decision are borne out by the successful management of the peak winter travel period, when planned engineering works and unprecedented storms and flooding across the UK led to travel disruptions across the rail network. ATOC’s decision to entrench its investment in SOASTA has allowed it to proactively manage and adjust to the varying volume and spikes in traffic to the NRE website.

The National Rail Enquiries service provides travel planning, ticket sales, fares and real-time travel information. The NRE website is at the heart of over 600 million yearly journey inquiries received across ATOC’s contact centres, mobile, apps and website. The NRE website handles over 500,000 inquiries a day while the NRE smartphone app has had over 10 million downloads so far. With thousands of concurrent users, load and performance testing was essential in ensuring availability of the website and a continuation of the service.

“The 2015 festive period was in many ways a perfect storm for us – we had to simultaneously contend with planned engineering works as well as the unplanned consequences of the severe storms. We drew on our experience of bad weather incidents from earlier years to model appropriate scenarios to test against. We ran a wide range of load and performance tests to ensure that various aspects of the NRE website would remain available and accessible. This ranged from the live travel information and ticket sales to timetables and details of disruptions. The prior testing that we conducted with SOASTA ensured we were set for whatever the weather might throw at us and emerge out the other end unscathed,” said Jason Webb, Director, National Rail Enquiries.

“It was the unpredictable nature of the St Jude’s Day storms of October 2013 that first led us to approach SOASTA and it was the impending winter storms of 2015 that led us to extend our investment in SOASTA’s CloudTest platform. Bad weather events or engineering works tend to trigger traffic spikes to the NRE website but we also have to contend with the daily peak commute times, as well as being prepared for the unexpected. The challenge with sudden, unpredictable events is that you expect spikes in traffic but can’t anticipate when they will occur. SOASTA’s CloudTest platform has given us the capability to plan confidently for both unexpected as well as anticipated events and occasions, in a manner that is both robust as it is flexible,” added Jason Webb, Head of online, ATOC.

“The National Rail Enquiries website is a vital online portal for the travelling public. With millions of commuters relying on it for up to the minute travel information and services, maintaining the site’s availability and reliability is a cornerstone of ATOC’s customer service strategy. SOASTA’s expertise and methodologies in load and performance testing has enabled ATOC to not only test with confidence but to do so in a dynamic fashion that allows them to draw on historical data and insights to plan and test for what may lay ahead”, said Chris Addis, VP & General Manager, SOASTA.

ATOC initially engaged SOASTA following the devastating St Jude Day’s storms of October 2013. The unpredictability of the storms and the subsequent travel disruption that they caused led to a huge spike in traffic to the NRE website that created some difficulties. ATOC learnt valuable lessons and sought to apply them going forward. The load and performance tests coincided with ATOC’s migration of its physical servers to virtual ones as part of an on-going IT strategy. SOASTA’s CloudTest on Demand platform was selected to provide realistic load tests during the migration and ensure that all the services on the NRE website worked as intended. Over a period of nine months, SOASTA supported ATOC through the migration with a series of on-going tests that reinforced and validated the performance of the website and the availability of its services. This work proved invaluable in allowing ATOC to gear up and plan for the impact of Storms Desmond and Frank that struck the UK in December 2015.

About ATOC (Association of Train Operating Companies)

ATOC’s mission is to work for passenger rail operators in serving customers and supporting a prosperous railway. Set up after privatisation in 1993, the Association brings together all train companies to preserve and enhance the benefits for passengers of Britain’s national rail network, which jointly we do by providing these services:



SOASTA is the leader in performance analytics. The SOASTA platform enables digital business owners to gain unprecedented and continuous performance insights into their real user experience on mobile and Web devices – in real time, and at scale. With more than 10 million tests performed and more than 100 billion user experiences measured, SOASTA is the digital performance expert trusted by industry-leading companies including Experian, Hallmark, Intuit and Microsoft. SOASTA is privately held and headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., and European operations driven from Reading, UK. For more information about SOASTA, please visit


Ajay Nawathe

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