Rail strikes: improving information for passengers

16 March 2023

Transport Focus has been reviewing the online information available to rail passengers in the run up to this week’s strikes affecting many train companies in England.

I’m glad to say that we’ve found good practice in a number of places. Overall, though, the information is frustratingly in need of ‘sharpening up’ to make it as simple as possible for passengers to make informed decisions about what they do or don’t do.

On the good practice front we felt…

  • South Western Railway, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains continued to provide clear, easy to find and follow information
  • Great Western Railway provided good information about Cheltenham services on strike days.

Where could things have been better?

  • Previous use of graphics to summarise the impact on different dates seems to have dwindled. It’s a good ‘at a glance’ indicator of the impact, pointing up where passengers should delve further into the detail to see exactly how it will affect them.
  • Making information prominent on website homepages seems to have slipped a bit from earlier strikes. Make it simple for people to work out what’s going on.
  • Some unaffected operators fall into the trap of assuming people know they will be running a full, or near full, service. Intending passengers will wonder, so why leave them to wonder? Alerting passengers to the less good situation elsewhere is important too of course.
  • While some websites were clear about when strike timetables would be showing in journey planners, others were vague – asking passengers to keep checking and revisiting.
  • While many people will stay away today and Saturday, some have no option but to battle through. Helping those passengers find alternatives – rail, bus, coach – would be useful. Some do this, but it could be more consistent across operators.
  • A lot of good information on refunds was available, but having direct links to refund pages was inconsistent. Just make it easy for people.

We’ve highlighted issues to train operators and others where we found them. It’s good to see that Chiltern Railways, Greater Anglia, TransPennine Express and West Midlands Trains improved their information as a result.

We will be looking at information again ahead of Saturday’s strike and pressing for improvements if needs be. In the meantime, we encourage train operators and others to keep sense checking if the information they are providing about strike impacts is as clear as it possibly can be.

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