The region is growing, with rail at the forefront of that growth. Stopping and taking breath during this period of rapid growth could allow the region to offer full value to what is the most important part of the region’s growth – The passenger.
At TransCity Rail North, a panel of experts from across the North’s rail network discussed how that is happening in the region.
At this current point in time, the region has slowly been taking charge of its own decisions when it comes to transport. The recently launched integrated transport network, the Bee Network which runs across the Greater Manchester region is an example of where a service is meeting the needs of its passengers.
Speaking as part of the debate, Simon Elliott, head of rail at Transport for Greater Manchester said: "For us, good looks like the Bee Network, which is integration of different modes, different services essentially.
We recognise that rail can transcend political and geographical networks, more so than many other modes, so making that a better experience is key. For the customer, the Bee Network means it is seamless, simple effective, and sustainable, which is the essence of what a passenger wants.”
To get to that point where a project like the Bee Network can exist means it needs buy-in from a whole host of people. But not just the people who hold the purse strings, but the wider economic and social sphere. And to do that, understanding how rail is used, so a real better understanding of where investment should be made is vital.
Nick Smith, regional growth manager for the West Coast Partnership said:
“There is no one single solution but we need to work with local authorities and regional partnerships, and we’ve been working on the last few months with Network Rail how people are travelling from and to our stations.”, Nick Smith, regional growth manager for the West Coast Partnership commented as part of the panel.
He added, “We’ve been digging deeper into that on how people interact with rail and how to encourage a modal shift. And it’s told us many things about what a passenger expects.”
Passengers and their expectations frequently come up during the debate. How it fundamentally hasn’t changed. Simon commented that whilst the industry is data rich, it is insight poor. However, where it comes to understanding the passenger, they still want reliability.
And reliable information. Chris Coleman, industry programme director for Network Rail added, “Information is crucial, the customer expects it. For the customer, they will look at any info they provide on delays, or cancellations and immediately think ‘could I have known that sooner’- So, we must make sure it is available as soon as possible because it will affect their decision on whether to choose rail and to make that journey by rail.
“Multi-modal ticketing is good value, and it takes the friction out of a journey for the customer. It means that customers can get flexibility and the best price, and we don’t think about this enough from passenger’s eyes – We have a barrier sometimes to reasons as to why some people don’t choose public transport.”
He adds at the end, that as an industry, they must remove every barrier for the passenger when it comes to choosing public transport.