Accent MR Accent

Consumer Insight Keeps Rail Franchise Bids on the Right Track

We were very pleased to have been involved in delivering the consumer research for First Group as part of their successful bid for the West Coast Line. And although we’re naturally self-effacing people, we can’t help but feel a little smug that over the past few years we do seem to have an impressive track record when it comes to providing research for successful rail franchise bids. We’ve worked with Stagecoach, First Group and Virgin helping them pull together their submissions by providing robust research that provides essential insight as they build their business case.

This got us to thinking as to what might account for our success – in around 80% of cases the companies we’ve been involved with have gone on to win the franchise. We think it boils down to five key areas.

First, it’s really important to gain an in depth understanding of what can actually be realistically delivered by the company tendering for the route. We always insist on a series of internal workshops with key stakeholders as the first part of any research programme.

Next, a stage of “deep dive” qualitative research is essential to explore what consumers are looking for from train operators and how the company’s brand fits with their aspirations.

Thirdly, our expertise in Stated Preference research allows us to uncover consumers’ priorities and to drill down to understand how much they’re prepared to pay for different elements in the mix, and what trade-offs that they’re prepared to make. Our understanding of how to navigate ticketing and pricing options within a regulated environment is a fourth element which allows us to provide comprehensive and unequivocal guidelines for clients developing their fare structure as part of a bid.

Finally, it’s essential that the final research demonstrates a seamless integration of qualitative and quantitative techniques – to provide clarity and direction.

We’ll continue to use this tried and tested approach as and when we’re invited to work on further rail franchise bids – and hopefully our success rate will be maintained.

To see a case study on another example of our work in rail transport click here