On 2 September 2022, EPF Board Member Christopher Irwin participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by Global Railway Review.

The discussion saw the gathering of rail industry stakeholders and aimed to address how to improve rail passenger experience. Additionally, the involved stakeholders explored:

  • how to improve passenger satisfaction post-Covid 19,
  • the role of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS),
  • the importance of on-board comfort,
  • expanding rail networks to offer more reliable connections and service,
  • how train stations must evolve to play a part in the overall passenger experience.

When asked about whether the rail sector recovered and gained back passenger numbers after the COVID-19 pandemic, Christopher mentioned that although rail passenger numbers continue hiking up and regaining pre-pandemic levels, the composition of the market is showing a significant change. He added that factors such as home working have accelerated the decline of daily commuting. There is a growing willingness to travel longer-distances but to make less frequent visits to the external workplace.

In order to meet citizens’ expectations and attract more passengers travelling by rail, Christopher mentioned a research conducted by Transport Focus in Great Britain. Results revealed that passenger satisfaction can be achieved by ‘affordable, punctual, reliable, frequent service on which you can get a seat, or at the very least, stand in comfort’. Additionally, the study detected that the dominant driver for passenger dissatisfaction is the way in which delays are (not) dealt with.

Moreover, after being asked if MaaS can contribute to improving rail passenger experience and about the remaining challenges for a wide adoption of such concepts, Christopher highlighted that most journey needs cannot be satisfied by rail alone. He added that there is a need to conceive rail as part of a network of networks. Furthermore, he said that the contributions of MaaS will correlate with the extent of its application, the modes covered, adequacy of easily accessible journey planning information, and its geographic scope and relevance. For MaaS to succeed, Christopher reiterated that it needs to be transparent, inclusive, unbiased, timely, reliable and attractively priced.

Finally, he stated that for train stations to become the ‘place to be’ they need to be more attractive and welcoming to people from all walks of life including those with reduced mobility or those who are unfamiliar with the railway environment.

The roundtable was published as part of the Global Railway Review Magazine (Issue 04 | August 2022). Read more here.