Accent MR Accent

Investigating rail operators’ handling of disruption for the DFT


Disruptions to journeys are a major source of frustration to passengers, but these are often unavoidable. The Department for Transport wanted to understand how well disruption was being handled by train operators, with particular emphasis on timely communication of information and passengers’ preferred mode of delivery.


We opted for a mixed methodology approach. We began the project by capturing “in the moment” feedback from rail passengers using a mobile app to understand their service needs and ideal messaging at every stage of the journey. This was followed by a series of group discussions and face to face depth interviews to identify best service disruption practice and to test and optimise messaging that would resonate with passengers. Between each of these stages we held sharing workshops to develop appropriate messaging and build best practice. The final phase was an online quantitative survey amongst passengers who had suffered disruption to their journey – recruited at a number of different stations.


We identified a clear correlation between the provision of information and how well passengers felt the disruption was handled – the more timely the information that was provided, the more likely passengers were likely to feel mollified. We established a clear need for train operators to deliver timely and clear information regarding cancellations or delays and that a tone of contrition is extremely important. Passengers are also looking for information regarding the causes of the disruption. ”Best in class” guidelines were provided to be shared with train operators.