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Rail Travel Disruption and Door-to-Door Travel

September 06, 2013
Author: Philip Martin

Back in June 2013, the French air traffic controllers decided to intervene and I did experience what real disruption means.  So where does rail fit under travel disruption and what is the importance of communication when it happens? 

The perfect journey until disruption happened

Firstly I had planned and booked my tickets in advance to get the best fares. I had decided to fly to Gatwick and then take the train up to Yorkshire. Secondly (and most important) was the reason for my trip, it was my Mom’s birthday and I was also playing in a golf invitation tournament with my Dad – both not to be missed!

I got lucky that my flight was still scheduled as many others were cancelled from Nice (France), however, as we sat for hours on the runway I feared the worst – I would miss my connection from London, which was a prepaid ticket that had to leave at the same time and train number as on the ticket. The good news was at least I was to arrive in London so would get to my final destination somehow. On arrival, I had missed my connection, but I now had to pay 10 times the amount of my original pre-booked ticket to get on the next train – a kick in the pocket!

The journey from London to Leeds was late and I missed the connection to Harrogate, as did some other disgruntled passengers. This could have been avoided if we were ushered towards the right platform. All in all, I had travelled for 14 hours door to door, a trip that would normally take 6.


Putting passenger first

But what is the key message of my story? The need of communication between forms of transport during a disruption or at least the ability to help a traveller get in contact with the onward journey and help keep the same ticket price.

The Phocuswright paper, Passenger First, looks at how disruption with airlines and re-accommodation could be handled and its pictured under this Amadeus Infographic. But how could all this apply to intermodal disruption, as door-to-door travel normally includes more than one mode of transport? I believe this is a still a big question mark, however, railways are making big changes in the way they keep the passenger informed.

New technology trends such as mobile push notifications, real-time online journey planners, digital screens with live updates, live departure boards on the travellers' phone, automatic announcements on stations and trains are helping to keep the passenger informed, although there is still a challenge for railways dealing with delays, the major advancement we have identified is the railways' use of big data to avoid delays, forecast disruption and act before it happens. 

So whereas PIDD (passenger information during disruption) is improving I believe there needs to be more of a link between intermodal disruption so that if one leg of the journey has failed the other picks up the pieces to make sure the journey is not totally memorable for the wrong things.

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