When things go wrong, better information can help make things more tolerable

23 March 2023

How do passengers like to be communicated with when travelling by train? Transport Focus worked with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) to ask passengers what works for them.

The rail industry has been pulling together a second phase of its Smarter Information, Smarter Journeys programme and wanted to better understand passengers’ needs and priorities when it comes to information.

We asked passengers what information they need, when they need it and how they want to get it. Also, how this might change depending on whether a journey runs smoothly or is affected by unplanned disruption. Mainly we wanted to understand how passengers felt future investment through the industry’s Smarter Information, Smarter Journeys programme should be prioritised.

So what did we find?

Many passengers see the railway as behind the curve on communications, for example compared with airlines. They’d like to see smarter ways of letting them know what’s going on – information coming to them rather than them having to seek it out. That said, not everyone is able or willing to use a smartphone or computer to access information and there is a clear need for conventional channels too, including staff with the most up to date information.

Chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, Anthony Smith, said:

“It is when things go wrong that information is most needed and we found passengers can feel let down. While no amount of information can make up for the inconvenience, good information that helps passengers feel in control of the situation can help ease the pain.

“Making use of what is there in terms of communication channels and having staff who can provide assurance are key.”

Passengers told us that when there is unplanned disruption it’s important to know when service will be back to normal. They also want information about the delay, alternative routes and whether their tickets will be valid on other trains.

When trains are running normally passengers told us they want well informed staff, information on the busyness of the train and station, and information about onward connections.

We looked at various initiatives being considered as part of a second phase of the Smarter Information, Smarter Journeys programme and tested them on passengers. These were largely well-received and look likely to improve satisfaction with the information the railway provides.

It’s great to see the industry come together to sort out long-standing information problems. We look forward to continuing our work providing the passenger voice and to seeing the next set of initiatives being implemented through the second phase of the Smarter Information, Smarter Journeys programme.