Disruption, information – and innovation

01 November 2021

The weather and an accident near Salisbury made yesterday a very difficult day for the railway and its passengers.

Appalling conditions disrupted both the mainline routes to Scotland on the day when people were using the train to travel to the COP26 summit. Unfortunately, climate change means disruption due to wild weather will become more and more frequent. Whatever the outcome of the summit, much work will be needed in the coming decades to make the railway more resilient.

The accident near Salisbury is more of a shock. Our thoughts are with the injured passengers and railway staff. Such accidents remain very rare occurrences. We can be confident the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and others will be working hard to find out what happened and try to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Both these incidents have severely disrupted passengers. Our research has long shown the importance of timely and useful information to help people understand the impact on their journeys and help them plan.

Looking at social media we can see lots of questions about alternative routes and rail replacement services. There will always be confusion after an event like this, but this highlights how important it is that operators work hard to make it absolutely clear which routes are open and if their ticket will be accepted.

A twitter post asking for updated journey information


We’ve been engaging with Great Western Railway (GWR) today providing feedback to help it improve the information available to passengers.

Network Rail’s Western route and GWR have recently begun a trial of improvements to the way they communicate during disruption. They are using ‘rainbow boards’, an interactive map and video updates in an effort to improve passenger satisfaction with information during delays.


This is reminiscent of a weather forecast, using the map to help explain which services have been affected. This extra human touch feels like it could make a real difference.

Good to see that even in these difficult circumstances the railway is trialling new approaches to up its game on information during disruption.

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