Towards a Framework for Improving Customer Train Experience

Towards a Framework for Improving Customer Train Experience


Peter Krumm, Netherlands Railways, Mark Van Hagen, Netherlands Railways


In this paper the authors portray their image of how customer satisfaction of a railway journey can be addressed at a time when mobility needs and demands are ever increasing.


In this paper the authors portray their image of how customer satisfaction can be addressed at a time when mobility needs and demands are ever increasing.

Owing to the rapid development of modern communications technology, the connotation of “connection” is expected to alter in the coming decades. Mobile and digital measures, and smart and efficient use of today’s information technology, make it possible for people to experience more control and autonomy. This demands a greater individually oriented service provision to passengers than the more collective facilities currently on offer on the train and at the station. The necessity to move for work or school will change to a conscious decision whether movement is absolutely necessary, and if so, how. As part of the transport chain, for the train to retain a niche in these changing circumstances, it has to reposition itself.

According to the authors of this paper, there are two discernable movements which will determine the train service of the future:
1. The first is the result of a growing difference in mobility needs between urban and non-urban areas. This is driven by the century of the city, the city as the engine of the knowledge economy. The expansion of towns forms a stark contrast with the expected shrinking of (some) non-urbanised regions where the decrease in population along with the exodus of facilities is already becoming apparent. This trend is expected to continue in the coming ten to twenty years. Eventually this will result in a changing interpretation of public transport and thus also in a different approach to mobility by train. Whereas today’s concession expects an equal service provision throughout the country, this will no longer be self-evident in the long term. Densely populated areas will start to request a totally different kind of mobility than sparsely populated ones.
2. The second movement is the development of the quality of the train journey in the Netherlands over the past decade. Despite passengers on some days and at certain locations unfortunately still having a negative experience, the overall customer assessment of the reliability is flattening. Apparently, customer satisfaction with reliability has reached its maximum score (see ETC paper Van Hagen & De Bruyn, 2012). The expectation is that in ten years’ time, a substantial portion of investment measures from the National Budget to 2028 will be exploited. The overall effect will be that reliability, safety and capacity of NS, including many of the current dissatisfiers in the pyramid of customer needs (Van Hagen, 2011), are under control. The way in which we address the top of the pyramid (the satisfiers) will only increase in importance.

It is on the basis of the combination of both movements, that the authors of this paper offer a suggestion as to also how the train can address the pending mobility issue. This will quite emphatically show a difference between the dense and more sparsely populated areas. The current uniform supply of a train product will eventually be replaced by changing combinations of collective products and services on the one hand, and a supply of individual products and services on the other. In order to still be able to offer a qualitatively good product in non-urban areas, the improvement will have to be sought - more than at present - in the expansion and upgrading of individual products and services. More trains in non-urban areas are no longer feasible. The same can also be said about off-peak hours in urban areas.


Association for European Transport