Planned rail engineering work: The passenger perspective

Source: RTM Dec/Jan 6

David Sidebottom, passenger director at Transport Focus, on the importance of considering the passenger perspective during rail engineering work.

Before the Christmas shut-down, we talked to rail industry partners about our recent work on passengers’ needs and experiences during engineering works. We worked closely with Great Western to understand more about passengers’ needs around works at Reading and Bath earlier in 2015. It was reassuring to see the operator take so seriously the need to keep passengers informed during fairly significant upheaval. 

We say, time and again, that the rail industry will only retain the confidence and trust of its passengers when it takes full account of their needs. 

With billions of pounds about to be spent on improvements across Britain, and so many passengers still reporting that they get poor and unhelpful information, it is key that the whole of the rail industry takes heed of the lessons in this report. 

This includes thinking about how disruption will affect different passenger journeys, and ensuring that the information passengers need is available when they need it. The timing, content, type and tone of information that different passengers require, as well as their perspective on the way the disruption is handled, are key to keeping passengers happy. 

We will take this work out to industry colleagues over the coming months. It is also available on the Transport Focus website as a summary or detailed report. 

Our recommendations are: 

  1. Consider how the various elements of the engineering work are likely to affect individual passengers’ journeys: who does it affect and how?
  2. Build this insight into your planning approach, so that you are able to deliver a tailored information campaign: tell passengers what they want to know about their journey, when they need to know it
  3. Tailor your message
  4. Timing of info: be guided by research but remember every project is different so be prepared to be flexible
  5. Use full range of information channels to reach different types of passengers.

The value of the work has already been felt on this project – our initial focus group work helped Great Western develop and refine its communications materials. Follow-up work showed an improvement across most measures of awareness/satisfaction. 

It is now more critical than ever before, when passengers are funding so much of the cost of the railway, that their needs are prioritised over what is convenient.

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