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Apple Apps for Helping London Tube-Strike Victims Ride High


Apple Apps for Helping London Tube-Strike Victims Ride High

Londoners Face Travel Delays

The stoppage, the sixth to shut London Underground, or the Tube, since 2002, will involve around 11,000 employees, according to the RMT. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

As Londoners suffer through a third strike by subway workers in as many months, Malcolm Barclay, an independent application developer for Apple Inc.’s iPhone, is raking it in.

Barclay’s London Travel Deluxe and Tube Deluxe apps help users plan their commutes. During the previous industrial action by Underground workers, London Travel Deluxe, which directs journeys by bus, climbed to No. 1 in the U.K. travel section of Apple’s App store.

“So long as there’s a strike, people will want the information on their mobiles and I’m prepared to sell them that information,” the 35-year-old New Zealander said in an interview.

Some of the 3.5 million users of the Underground, known as the Tube, will turn to travel apps after workers began a 24-hour walkout at 7 p.m. last night over safety concerns and staffing levels. The strike by as many as 11,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association is in protest against about 800 planned job cuts among ticket office staff and station managers.

Sales for Barclay’s apps, which can be downloaded for 59 pence each on the iPhone, peaked at around 550 pounds ($881) on each of the two previous strike days of Sept. 6 and Oct. 4. That compares with about 290 pounds a day over a 151-day average, Barclay said. He gets about 36 pence from each sale, with the rest going to Apple.

“There’s a two- to threefold increase in revenue on strike days,” Barclay said from the East London apartment that doubles as his office.

Transport for London, or TfL, is laying on more than 100 extra buses and capacity for around 10,000 more river crossings to get Londoners to work.

Boris Bikes

Another option for commuters will be the City’s public cycle-hire program, which was unveiled by Mayor of London Boris Johnson in August. An Apple app is helping strike-trapped commuters on this front, too.

FIPLAB Ltd., developer of the London Cycle app that helps cyclists locate the public-hire bicycles, saw user sessions triple to 90,000 during the second 24-hour strike.

“We expect user sessions to spike to around 90 to 100K on the day of the tube strike,” director Anirudh Sharma said in an e-mailed response to questions yesterday. “We are expecting very high usage during rush hours.” Before the strike day, the app averaged around 40,000 user sessions a day.

The app has been downloaded more than 110,000 times since its creation and Sharma expects daily downloads to double to more than 1,000 during the strike.

The free app is sponsored by Vitabiotics Ltd., the makers of Wellman vitamin products, and generates revenue from advertising.

‘Ambulance Chase’

London Underground ran 40 percent of its normal services during the last stoppage, TfL said. The previous strike was estimated to have cost businesses 48 million pounds, according to the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry. A fourth strike is planned for Nov. 28.

For Barclay, that will spell more revenue, although he’s quick to say he’s not looking to ride high on people’s misery.

“I’m pretty careful not to ambulance chase,” he said. “I’ve been on the receiving end many, many times and that’s why I wrote the apps -- to help myself out.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Spillane in London at cspillane3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Colin Keatinge at ckeatinge@bloomberg.net.

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