Rail disruption – what passengers want to know

10 August 2023

Passengers are calling for better information ahead of planned engineering works. 

In the latest report from Transport Focus, feedback from passengers gives a detailed picture of the impact of engineering works to deliver the new Old Oak Common station on the Great Western Main Line/new HS2 route as well as electrification of the Midland Main Line north from Market Harborough to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.  

 The report also looks at how attitudes to planned disruption have changed following the Covid-19 pandemic and includes findings from Transport Focus’s 2022 study Britain’s railway: what matters to passengers. 

 Transport Focus is working with train operators, Network Rail and HS2 to help make sure passenger communications hit the mark during any significant period of disruption. 

Those we spoke to in the research had little awareness of future disruption on East Midlands Railway or CrossCountry for the Midland Main Line electrification work, or on Great Western Railway and Elizabeth line for the work at Old Oak Common. 

 Anthony Smith, Transport Focus chief executive said:  

 “This is the first piece of passenger research about engineering work we’ve done post pandemic. They have told us they want more and improved information ahead of time so that they can make an informed decision about their journey.  

 “We also saw different views on the timing of engineering works – with traditional weekend work not the best option for some passengers, and that longer duration works, such as a full week’s closure may be preferable for some.  

 “This reflects the change in the use of the railway post pandemic with an increase in leisure travel and flexible working patterns with more home working on traditional commuting days during the week.”   

What have passengers told us? 

  • they are not well informed about upcoming engineering works or the resulting disruption to their journeys.   
  • longer but fewer disruptions are easier to remember and easier to plan around and may be preferable for some. They are easier to communicate to passengers and easier for them to communicate to others impacted (such as their employer or their customers).
  • passengers expect the railway to suggest alternatives, for example using other lines, and expect there to be coordination between rail operators and other services such as coaches, buses and trams to ensure that suggested alternatives have sufficient capacity during the disruption period. 
  • overall, the passengers we spoke to are willing to experience disruption for wider gain – even if they won’t personally benefit.  


The report makes recommendations on how to communicate with, and minimise the disruption to, passengers during engineering work:  

  • the railway should consider the ‘least bad’ time to undertake disruptive engineering work bearing in mind the mix of passengers making different journeys on the route in question 
  • the railway should outline the impact on passengers’ travel options at least six months in advance to allow, among other things, holidays to be arranged to avoid the works and so commuters are aware when renewing season tickets 
  • the railway should offer compensation such as temporary fare reductions or ‘extra days’ on season tickets during periods of sustained disruption.  

Transport Focus will use this research to help the rail industry to improve communications to passengers and inform future policy for the planning of engineering works. 

DOWNLOAD REPORT: Passengers expectations of how rail engineering works are managed

The full research findings can be found here: Old Oak Common and Midland Main Line

Members of the media can contact the Transport Focus press office for further information on 0300 123 2170

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