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Transport for London (TfL) was set up in 2000 to take central responsibility for London’s public transport services including London Buses, London Underground, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and the management of Croydon Tramlink and London River Services. Additionally, it is responsible for a 580km network of main roads – including the management of the central London Congestion Charging scheme – and London’s 4,600 traffic lights. More recently TfL has taken responsibility for the regulation of London’s taxis and private hire services. TfL also promotes a range of walking and cycling initiatives across the capital and coordinates schemes for transport users with impaired mobility.

Each day over 30 million journeys are made in the capital. To make these as straightforward and trouble free as possible, and to provide details of all of the services under its remit, TfL launched its Journey Planner Website in August 2002.

What started as simple pages containing maps and timetables is now a complex, real-time guide to business and leisure travel in the capital. In addition to up-to-the minute service and traffic updates, TfL also offers customers the option of receiving travel updates via mobile, SMS and interactive TV services.

With so many people relying on the site it is vital that the Website is available 24 hours a day. It also has to be able to handle sudden and prolonged peaks in traffic, as were experienced during the New Years Eve industrial action for example. On December 31 2005, the Journey Planner site was visited by 100% more customers than it had been in the previous days.

From the launch of the site in 2002, TfL made the decision to outsource the hosting and management of the Website to Globix, a leading managed hosting and security services provider.

“Initially, the service was hosted on five Web servers, located in Globix’ London hosting centre. The requirement soon grew to 15 as the number of site queries rocketed – from 5.5 million in January 2003 to 28 million in January 2006 – and the breadth and complexity of the content increased,” said David Coppins, Group Marketing Operations, Technical Manager, Transport for London.

In December 2005, the decision was made by TfL Group Marketing Operations to once again review the hosting options. To remain useful to passengers, Journey Planner needs not only to be up and running, but to deliver searches quickly and provide updates in real-time.

This rapid increase in capacity had to be addressed and future projected monthly increases in traffic, as well as the unpredictable spikes and peaks, had to be factored in. New applications are also scheduled for 2006, including a road route planner and an increase in languages from the current four to 12. The impact of these on the Web hosting infrastructure also had to be considered.

David said: “We were experiencing a huge growth in traffic and we needed to ensure the site’s performance could cope with this increase in demand. We recognised that we needed to conduct a complete review of the infrastructure and decided that the best way to do this would be to work in partnership with our hosting partner Globix. The immediate solution would have been to add new Web servers to keep up with demand. However, after discussing this with Globix, we concluded this was not the most effective option from a system efficiency or investment perspective.”