Rail Industry Focus

11.09.19

Putting passengers first

Source: RTM: Aug/Sep 19

How does the rail industry design the railways for the next 40 years, and when it does, how do we make sure it’s all done with the passenger in mind? Jane Fisher joined three members of the Arup team at one of this year’s TCR Midlands leaders debates to get to the heart of the issue.

Opening the discussion, Arup director John Fagan told the audience: “At the heart of Arup is designing things that are very usable now, and for the next generation. Our vision is to be able to allow people, both passengers and stakeholders, to visualise the things that we’re designing so that we design them for the next 50 or 75 years.” 

The opening statement highlighted the challenge facing engineers and designers in rail; how can we ensure that everything moving forward is designed with passengers at the centre, especially when the trains and depots being built will likely be in use for at least the next 40 years. To borrow an increasingly popular slogan with TOCs, how do we put passengers first? 

Fagan said the short-term solution so far had been to strongly increase engagement with stakeholders. Involving passengers with strategic and long-term planning can change designing into co-creating. 

But 40% of the population travel by train less than once a year. Fagan suggested that in order to welcome more people onto the railways, designers must also consider the entire end-to-end journey people make when travelling by train. From bus connections to adequate parking, Susan Claris, associate director and transport planner at Arup, likened the complete passenger journey to a chain; if one link goes missing, the whole chain falls apart. 

Claris also warned that we tend to design for the average - to achieve better cohesion “we must broaden our understanding of what people need and want.” 

The panel agreed that the rail industry is responding well to the needs of those with physical disabilities, being a largely design-based issue. The big challenge, said Susan, is creating a suitable environment for people suffering from mental health conditions. In England, 26% of adults have been diagnosed with at least one mental health condition, and a further 18% say they suffer without being diagnosed - nearly half the population in total. 

David Edge, associate director and virtual & visualisation leader, said technology is the key to learning where people are anxious. Eye-tracking and heart-rate monitoring can be used with user groups to explore what people are thinking – the more testing you do, the more you can start to find bottlenecks of stressful experiences. These are key to improving passenger experience, said Edge. 

When asked how do you cater for everyone, Jane Fisher, transition and projects director at West Midlands Trains, explained there is no easy solution. Operators know they need wheelchair spaces, but equally want to get as many seats on board as possible. The real challenge is striking the correct balance, and you do this by speaking to as many people and user groups as you can. 

Fisher is in charge of the delivery a new fleet of trains for the region, and has watched the rolling stock go from the early design stage to being built in Italy. She explained: “The basic premise we start with is passengers want something clean, punctual, affordable and comfortable.” Passenger experience goes far beyond the basics, however, and the new trains can expect features such as WiFi, air conditioning and much more. 

The biggest challenge, though, Fisher told the panel, is anticipating what tomorrow’s trend will be. Building trains to last 40 years comes with inherent problems, and the “future is often oversold and underimagined.” 

In response, Edge admitted that we don’t know what the next 40 years will hold. 5G may have surpassed on-board WiFi and issues such as ticket barriers may be redundant, who knows what tomorrow’s trends will be. He told the panel: “But we do know that we need a flexible and dynamic environment when looking to the future.” 

Concluding, with the current rate of urbanisation, Fagan added that as an industry and as designers, “we have a responsibility to create a railway that meets the needs of people living in our cities, and to connect them together as best we can.”

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

View all News

rail industry focus

  • 11/09/2019The next generation of rail infrastructure

    How the rail industry delivers the next generation of complex infrastructure will rely heavily on the people tasked with leading the projects, and the...
  • 11/09/2019Putting passengers first

    How does the rail industry design the railways for the next 40 years, and when it does, how do we make sure it’s all done with the passenger in mind?...
  • 10/09/2019Cleaning up the railways

    Jim Knox, director of Gard Chemicals, explains how the company is helping the rail industry ensure they have the best cleaning and maintenance...
View all News

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Year with brand-new infrastructrure to... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the TOC, gives RTM an update on the innovative scheme. Recognising that young people are more likely to take a risk trespassing on railway tracks, C... more > more last word articles >

interviews

Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio ... more >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Network Rail’s, Anna-Jane Hunter on HS2, NPR, and supply chain opportunities

29/08/2019Network Rail’s, Anna-Jane Hunter on HS2, NPR, and supply chain opportunities

Anna- Jane Hunter, is a ‘proud northerner’ and is passionate about continuing the investment and the success story of rail across the North.  She plays a key role in working with government and northern leaders to enable the network to carry on thriving. We caught up with Anna-Jane, for her expertise and insight into conn... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

comment

The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >
Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

02/07/2019Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

Smart electrification is the way to boost clean energy resources, argues Leo Murray, director at 10:10 Climate Action. Contractors are clear... more >
Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

02/07/2019Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

The TCR Midlands conference is only days away and tickets are going fast for the sector event of the year at the Vox Conference Centre in Birming... more >