Is the UK rail industry offering the first-class service we all rely on?
Did you know the railway system in Great Britain is the oldest railway system in the world?
First opening in 1825 as a locomotive-hauled public railway, it has seen immense growth to now stand at the fifth most used rail network in the world. Since privatisation in 1994/95, annual passenger rail journeys have grown to reach 1.7 billion journeys on the National Rail network, increasing steadily by 3.5% on average every year.
What’s more, it is one of the busiest rail networks in Europe, with a total of 2,566 passenger railway stations, representing more than 20% of the total passenger journeys made in Europe.
So, what do rail operators need to take into consideration to ensure they’re delivering a first-class experience? This blog will outline some of the key characteristics of the UK rail system, who uses rail and for what reason, what some of the strains are and how technology is sure to be the future in rail.
The current climate
In 2019, passenger arrivals into major cities increased to over 1.8million every single working day (Monday-Friday), with London accounting for 1.1million of these. 55% of daily arrivals were 7-10am, suggesting that the majority of the rail journeys are for commuting.
Who is the average rail user?
From the 2019 Rail Passenger Numbers and Crowding Gov Report we can see that, the average person undertakes 21 rail trips every year.
However, on average per year, rail travel is most common amongst:
- males aged 17-49 (41 trips per person)
- higher household income groups (44 trips per person)
- those in professional or managerial occupations (39 trips per person)
What are some of the strains on the UK rail system
Overcrowding on services
The railway system in the UK is essentially straining under the weight of all its passengers.
A report suggests that during peak hours of weekday travel, 16% of passengers were standing on trains across selected major cities. In London alone, there were 232,8000 passengers standing up during peak times which is more than the total number of passengers that arrive into each city outside of London during the morning peak.
During this peak, standing has shown an increase in several cities outside of London such as Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham as the demand on rail grows year-on-year.
Furthermore, nearly 44,000 passengers were in excess of capacity across commuter peaks in London, up 0.5% since 2018. This means that the trains are holding more passengers than they are fit to hold, often making for an unpleasant journey in many respects.
However, it has gotten better. Since 2010, almost all cities that experience a morning peak demand have increased their morning peak seating capacity.
Plus, introducing additional services, longer trains with more carriages and new rolling stock that have the capacity to hold more standing passengers has meant increased space and decreased overcrowding effectively, shown in Cambridge whereby standing passengers declined by 14.4% since 2018.
Of course, all this data must be taken with a pinch of salt. For example, journeys vary every single day, thus the days sampled may not represent reality or a true average. Read the full report for a well-rounded view of the facts, figures and conclusions here.
The emergence of MaaS
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is the integration of various forms of transport services into a single mobility service that is accessible on demand (more here).
It is quite often personalised and could feature a journey planner, timetables, handy information and ticketing via contactless, easy payments, combining to deliver a seamless journey.
Utilising MaaS brings significant benefits such as better user experience due to being able to supply information on demand to passengers, plus offering a reliable and easy service. Plus, users are now able to feedback to operators, either directly or indirectly (via smart data collection by the operator) regarding the specific attributes they want from their transport service.
Rail operators absolutely must keep up with developing technological advances and match competitors and other public transport operators to offer a seamless MaaS.
Where does lost property come into the rail operation?
Offering supplementary assistance in regards to all aspects of the train journey is essential. This covers all types of customer service queries such as those regarding items lost on trains.
It happens to all of us at some point. With 82% of individuals reporting they’ve left something behind on public transport, it’s reasonable to suggest quite a lot of these items have been left on trains specifically.
The current lost property process on UK rail is less than ideal. To look into this in detail, read our blog ‘Why passengers hate the way public transport operators handle lost property’.
How can rail deal with lost property?
Rail operators have a lot on their plates. The nature of transport is ever-moving which can be demanding when handling lost property.
Items are physically moved from place to place, passing through various teams, with many other jobs and responsibilities, and potentially a number of different stations. Not all rail operators have central hubs processing found items and handling lost item enquiries which can also be a challenge as the process is disaggregated.
What UK rail operators need is simple yet efficient lost and found software to implement into their operations. This easily feeds into the all-encompassing approach to mobility-as-a-service as passengers can enquire about items the same way they find information about their journey. This will ensure teams work smarter, not harder, plus rail will be able to provide an even better passenger experience.
Our experience working in public transport
We’re proud to have helped plenty of organisations reunite lost items with their rightful owners, putting a smile onto passenger’s faces. Most notably, Oxford Bus Company have completely transformed their lost property process from a slow operation that was irritating staff and disappointing passengers, into a reliable and efficient system that leads to incredibly positive feedback.
The UK has an undeniable love and dependency on rail; it’s in our history and our every day lives.
However, the transport environment is becoming more and more demanding, with more passengers on our rail systems every year, all needing the best experience possible. Therefore, it’s key that rail operators are switched on to the demands put upon them, the attitudes and behaviours of passengers and how important adopting new technology is to improving their service.