Updated ONLINE RIVER WARNINGS SWITCHED

 

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The Environment Agency has responded to concerns reported by River Thames News about changes to its online warning and information service.

Earlier we wrote: Details of the river levels have been carried on the Environment Agency’s website for several years. But they have now been switched to the Government website

The new location warns it is a Beta version, still in development. The move has been questioned by some river users and residents.

One  emailed River Thames News to say: “I feel it's a step back from the old site which the EA has now switched off.

“Specifically: Why switch off the old site while the new one is still in beta testing? Why do so in the middle of the flood season?

“The important part of each page - namely the plot of the river level  is swamped by unimportant parts, all written in an enormous font. In fact on a smaller screen it doesn't even appear until you scroll down the page.”

“They also appear to have missed the chance to combine the river levels information into the more general flood warning pages  and Thames stream condition warnings

Louise Wolfenden,  Senior Advisor in the EA  Flood and Coastal Risk management Team responded to questions from RTN.

Why switch off the old site while the new one is still in beta testing? Why do so in the middle of the flood season? " There is never an ideal time to switch services over. Flooding can happen at any time of the year. The new river and sea levels system has been operating since September 2015 and was fully tested during the winter floods. We decided to switch the old service off as it had become out-of-date and the new service provided current and accurate information (such as new highest recorded levels). The live flood information service is still in beta as we are still making improvements to it but the river levels part of the service is now fully operational and live. We plan to transfer the live flood information service out of beta this year."

The important part of each page - namely the plot of the river level  is swamped by unimportant parts, all written in an enormous font. In fact on a smaller screen it doesn't even appear until you scroll down the page. " We have developed the new service based on input from users and taking account of any feedback we previously received. We will be regular updating and improving the new service on GOV.UK based on feedback from customers. If users have suggestions and comments, we suggest they use the feedback link on the website to tell us about any changes they would like making to the service.

They also appear to have missed the chance to combine the river levels information into the more general flood warning pages  and Thames stream condition warnings
The new service brings the flood warning information and river levels into one system allowing people to use one search engine for both types of information. Previously the warnings and river levels operated in separate systems which meant users had to switch between them for information.
As part of the ongoing improvements, we are also improving our flood warning system. The replacement flood warning system along with the work on the live flood information system will consider what users needs are and how we potentially include strong stream information into the systems."

emails

The changes come as an email alert service warning of river conditions is suspended due to “technical issues” although on its website the Environment Agency still urges people to register for the alerts.

Its website says: “Subscribe to the latest River Conditions Updates here: To subscribe via email and/or SMS, enter your email address/telephone No below and click the subscribe button. “~

The service is out-sourced to a private company. And the EA said:” “Although the website itself is working normally, and continues to display real time river condition information …..technical issues mean we can no longer send out emails advising recipients of any changes to the information.

“The way the website was set up means these technical issues cannot be fixed without a complete overhaul of the site, which will be costly. We are therefore exploring alternative options.”

Signs

The agency is also replacing large red ‘strong stream’ boards (above right), warning boaters to keep off the river, with smaller notices (above left).

A reader writes: “The old boards were clear and could be seen from a distance away. You have to be much closer to the new ones to read the details.”

The EA  says it is combining a variety of lock information in one place and hopes all 45 locks will be changed by the start of the boating season.

It said: “We were also aware that the old river condition warning boards were heavy and cumbersome and could be difficult for staff to secure in place.”

Story dated Feb 21st 2016