We have identified a set of initiatives which aim to deliver information improvements for our customers for every part of their journey – at home when preparing to travel, at the station, when onboard a train or as part of their overall journey experience.
Improving Customer Information Screens (CIS) at stations is at the heart of the Smarter Information Programme. To ensure that any plans are based on what customers want, we have worked with Transport Focus to update our customer insights. The result of this research can be found here.
This work is designed to improve the consistency and accuracy of real-time train service information for customers, across all train operator CIS suppliers.
As the industry is working collaboratively to shape railway reform, Network Rail and Train Operating Companies are committed to adopting the ‘one station team’ approach across all managed and multi-operator stations.
To date, train operators that run out of Network Rail's 20 managed stations have successfully submitted ‘One Team’ plans both to the Department for Transport (DfT), as well as Transport Scotland. These plans define short-, medium- and long-term initiatives which will limit, and ultimately stop, passengers from being able to distinguish between Network Rail and operators’ frontline staff - thus allowing for more consistent information provision at stations while supporting the overall ambition of providing a seamless journey experience to customers.
£20 million is being invested to improve onboard announcements via changes to the GSM-R system and providing new capability in train operators’ control rooms. This work will allow for information to flow directly from control room to customers via the on-train public address.
More accurate information during disruption will leave customers reassured and enhance passengers’ safety as they will know when to remain onboard of a stranded train, in turn preventing further delays for them and others.
A key focus of our work to improve customer information, and therefore making for a better overall customer experience, is to advance the industry’s real-time information system ‘Darwin’ by delivering a number of functionality enhancements.
These improvements will allow for short-notice altered timetables to be displayed beyond the current 48-hour limit up to at least seven days, supporting customers with their journey planning.
On top of this, reasons for a delay will always be displayed at stations, and operators will be better equipped to communicate to customers when a train is being diverted, or have stops removed or added. This will give customers the full picture and enable them to make informed decisions when travelling by train.
A key part of our work within the Smarter Information Programme focuses on improving the quality of information provided to customers relating to facilities at stations and onboard trains. This includes information about car parks, toilets, lifts and escalators, but also train loading – looking at how busy a train is at any given time.
For this, we are upgrading the central IT systems which allows the sharing of data between operators and customers – and all data will be made openly available via the Rail Data Marketplace. This will help customers make informed decisions about where to park their car when heading to the station, how to navigate around the rail network according to their own accessibility needs or which train to catch based on seat availability.
We are committed to enhancing information provided to customers through improvements to the National Rail Communication Centre’s (NRCC’s) Bulletin Editor, which updates rail users on the status of a train and the exact route it is set to take during disruption.
Specifically, these enhancements will improve NRCC’s efficiency, resulting in information being provided more quickly during disruption, and reducing the amount of bulletins appearing – limiting information overload and the confusion this can cause for passengers.
In addition, an NRCC bulletin will only show information relevant to a customer’s journey during disruption, namely for the specific leg of the overall journey that is affected and not all the possible journeys between two locations. As a result, customers will benefit from more accurate and tailored information.
Working together, we have delivered an industry-wide agreed vision for what good customer information should look like by 2030.
For this, we spoke to 20 different organisations and gathered feedback from almost 60 industry experts. As we prepare for a big step-change in how the railway is run, this vision will guide our long-term strategy for customer information, continue to inform the Whole Industry Strategic Plan and support the work of Great British Railways.
In December 2021, we published the rail industry’s Customer Information Pledges. These brought a range of historical and outdated industry documents into one place to serve as a single source of truth on customer information.
As a result, customers benefit from an increased understanding of ‘what good looks like’ and what they can expect when choosing to travel by train.