The Last Word


Committed to improving customer experience

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 16

Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), explains what steps the industry is taking to improve the passenger experience for rail users.

Britain’s railway is a success story. As Europe’s safest and fastest-growing railway, it is increasingly important in our daily lives, getting millions of us to work and home for dinner – or to the big match – and keeping our supermarket shelves full. 

There are now almost 1.7 billion rail journeys a year – more than 4.5 million a day on average. Passenger numbers have doubled in the last 20 years. Britain’s rail industry contributes up to £10bn a year to the national economy, freight operators transport £30bn worth of goods every year, and rail and its supply chain support more than 200,000 jobs. 

In short, Britain runs on rail. Customers are at the heart of everything the rail industry does. 

Much to do to keep improving 

Overall satisfaction among rail passengers has risen “significantly” to its highest level for two years, according to the latest independent survey, but customers want more, whether they are travelling for work or for leisure. 

We have much more to do to keep improving and to show that we are an innovative and progressive industry. This includes modernising ticketing and improving how we communicate and connect with customers. 

We want rail customers to enjoy the best experience possible, from the moment they start planning their journey to the moment they leave the station at the other end. 

Understanding the customer experience 

The RDG has launched an initiative to explore and understand the gap between our customers’ experiences and what they expect from the railway. We are talking to passengers and getting their feedback on every point and aspect of their journeys. The overall experience is only as good as the sum of its many parts. 

Quite simply, we want our customers to have the information they need when they need it. We are improving the information passengers get on trains, platforms, on their apps and other devices. Accurate and timely information is essential for people planning journeys, boarding trains, catching connecting services, and making alternative plans in case of disruption.

A significant step will be the installation of GPS tracking technology on trains, which will help us to relay more detailed and more accurate information. 

Smart ticketing will help us improve the information we provide to passengers by allowing us to send personalised journey updates as we gather information on each passenger’s travel pattern, and help to make travelling by train easier for millions more passengers. 

Barcodes will become the norm across the network as train operators introduce new, smarter types of ticket to replace the old familiar orange paper ticket with the magnetic stripe. 

Bold aims for m-tickets 

So-called m-tickets that can be used on different operators’ services on a single journey have been successfully piloted on large chunks of the rail network. Downloaded and stored on personal mobile devices, they can be purchased anywhere with an internet connection. 

With an m-ticket the customer gets an itinerary, similar to an airline ticket, with information about train times, platforms and connecting services. We would like to see this flexible m-ticket available nationwide within three years. 

Turning our ambitious plan into reality will mean millions more people can enjoy the benefits of innovative smartcards, digital tickets and contactless payments, making the process of buying, storing and using tickets more convenient. 

Biometric technology may even mean that in future all you need to buy a train ticket is your fingerprint. 

As we build the bigger, better and safer railway that the country needs we know that we have a lot more work to do to make our customers’ journeys better from start to finish. Everyone in the railway is committed to giving our customers the excellent services they expect.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


Peter Gordon   19/08/2016 at 13:31

This is where I betray my age but it is increasingly worrying me that you will soon need to require a smart phone to do anything (and woe betide any "digital detoxers" like me who have decided to leave phones at home and catch up with the reading on the train. I'm not sure that I'm happy having all my movements recorded unless anonymised (although of course that already happens with an Oyster card). Will there be an international thumbprint database to capture overseas residents wishing to buy tickets in the UK & UK residents travelling abroad? Actually I believe that the greatest step forward in ticketing is unlimited travel tickets like the General Abonnement in Switzerland or the Bahncard 100 in Germany. Sadly we seem to be travelling in the opposite direction. The Capitalcard which became the travelcard certainly transformed travel in London.

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