Rail passengers give their views on ‘do not travel’ messages

24 August 2023

Rail passengers have had their say on train companies ‘do not travel’ messages in a new report by Transport Focus.

Passengers’ reactions to ‘do not travel’ messages due to major disruption, extreme weather and flooding for example, differed depending on the timing and language used. Many passengers struggled with the whole notion that the railway runs trains but tells people not to use them.

Triggered by severe weather disruption in October 2021, which affected events and travel including the COP26 climate summit, Transport Focus worked with the rail industry to look at how communications could be improved for passengers.

As well as the most appropriate way to communicate, passengers were asked what they understood existing ‘do not travel’ messages to mean, and if they provided the right information to make informed decisions about their journey.

The research also includes passenger reactions to a range of potential improvements to existing messaging including feedback on content, language used, tone and impact on passenger behaviour.

Anthony Smith, Transport Focus chief executive said:

“Passengers can be annoyed when they know trains are running but are told not to use them. The railway should reflect carefully on when it is right to say, ‘do not travel’. Passengers would rather be given the facts so they can make an informed decision.

“When there is major disruption, train companies should steer clear of baffling jargon like ‘ticket easement’ and make sure they communicate in ways passengers will immediately understand.”

Jason Webb, customer information director and Rail Delivery Group lead for SISJ, said:

“The Smarter Information, Smarter Journeys (SISJ) Programme was pleased to jointly-commission this research with Transport Focus. The research delivered new insight into how customers react to information during severe disruption. Following the research, the SISJ Programme has worked with train operators to develop and implement best practice to be used when communicating ‘do not travel’ messages.

“This includes recommended language, good practice messaging examples and communication principles which is now being used by train operators, so customers should benefit from clearer, more consistent information.”

Key findings

  • Passengers feel that the standard messaging is largely clear but it needs to be in plain English and avoid technical terminology.
  • Saying ‘do not travel’ when trains are running can confuse and frustrate passengers.
  • Some passengers will always try to make a journey in the face of disruption – they tend to feel that their journey is not ‘deferrable’.
  • The information passengers require varies depending on where they are in their journey – have they started out or are they still close to home.

The results of this research have generated valuable lessons on passenger reactions and understanding of those three simple words ‘do not travel’. Transport Focus will continue to work with train operators and across the rail industry to ensure that passenger communication is a priority during the severest disruption.

DOWNLOAD REPORT: ‘Do not travel’ – what does it mean to rail passengers?

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

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