When Good is Not Enough: the Changing Needs of Rail Passengers and Models for Excellent Service Quality in the Rail Industry



When Good is Not Enough: the Changing Needs of Rail Passengers and Models for Excellent Service Quality in the Rail Industry

Authors

Stephen Bennett, Arup

Description

This paper draws on experience across a number of rail planning projects and from our own primary research to explore the changing needs of rail passengers to help planners and operators understand their markets, and how these might change in future.

Abstract

Passenger rail demand in the UK has grown at an unprecedented rate in recent years. More people are travelling by rail for a wider variety of journeys than ever before. This means that passenger needs are evolving. Further, with developments in technology, passenger expectations are rising, and they expect to be able to stay connected, to work or be entertained during rail journeys. With ever more sophisticated marketing and branding of products, rail passengers expect to have greater connections and communications with train operators. This means that passengers have new and more sophisticated needs and expectations when using rail services, and it is of critical importance that train operators and railway planners have a thorough understanding of these needs when planning and delivering rail services.
This paper draws on experience across a number of rail planning projects and from our own primary research to explore the changing needs of rail passengers to help planners and operators understand their markets, and how these might change in future.
It presents ideas from Arup’s ‘Future of Rail’ research project looking at how global megatrends are affecting rail travel, particularly focusing on how urbanisation trends are driving the demand for rail, and how smart and integrated mobility is affecting passenger needs and behaviour.
It presents findings of a global review of relevant literature and research on service quality in rail and examines the contrast between service quality priorities for operators and priorities for passengers, which can often be quite different.
It examines the best-in-class service providers from other sectors and geographies, with a focus on understanding how rail can learn and benefit from other industries, such as aviation.
It identifies case studies of new and innovative approaches to service quality in rail, looking at examples of where improvements and innovations in passenger experience have led to improvements in customer satisfaction and increased demand for rail travel.
It also looks at how service quality can be defined and measured, covering both ‘soft’ subjective data (such as the UK’s National Rail Passenger Survey) and ‘hard’ objective data (such as the PPM indicator).
The paper then examines different models of service quality, including the Service Profit Chain (SPC) and the PZB models, as well as approaches such as the Dutch Railways ‘Train Experience Monitor’ and Transport for London’s ‘Customer Service Improvement’ model. It draws out parallels between these approaches and identifies the most important elements for rail operators and planners to consider.
The paper concludes that, in the future, the quality of the passenger experience should be a significant driver of innovation in the rail sector, and should be based on better service, loyalty and the ability to tailor preferences. Although rail service providers are responsible for millions of people’s journeys, they must think about each individual, as the future of service provision will be about more customised information and options, and removing barriers to the journey. Passengers will expect a service that includes basic levels of safety, hygiene and information, but they will also expect to be connected to the outside world, to work efficiently, to be entertained and to communicate with others during the journey. Passengers will expect to have emotional connections with the operator and their brand to feel valued and respected as a rail traveller. This has significant policy and economic implications for the rail industry.

Publisher

Association for European Transport