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Why choose a rail journey over coach travel or a car share?

August 31, 2015
Author: Philip Martin

Philip Martin shares thoughts on why people make the travel decisions they do.

After our recent experiment travelling to Barcelona (trying out three different ways of getting to our destination) we sat in a restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean (as you do) reflecting on the different people that we met, talked to and got to know - and why they made the travel decisions they did.

Passenger travel motivation can be surprising

What intrigued us was the fact that these new collaborative transport options cater for many traveller segments. Looking at this from a market segment perspective, one might expect (for example) the car sharing person to be young, on a budget, and in need of transport within the next few days. What we actually found was a number of very different traveller segments, with very different needs.

Looking at the car share, there is obviously the driver and passenger, but we found the drivers' ages ranged from the retired to the young professional, including what we would refer to as an 'ethical traveller' and an 'obligation meeter'.

From a passenger perspective, we found that most were 'simplicity searchers' or 'cultural purists', so who says that segments don't mix.

The car share

Here on Katrin's journey, we saw an 'ethical traveller' giving the 'cultural purist' a lift to their next destination. And, within the confines of the car, shared stories and a new relationship blossomed and the journey was a much more enjoyable experience.

The rail traveller

Now let's take the train traveller, Eve-Marie. On her journey she spoke to no-one (you just don't do that sort of thing on a train). Perhaps we ought to consider 'blabla' coaches for people that want to meet and have a conversation? Why is it so easy to talk to a complete stranger in a car sharing environment but near enough impossible to strike up a conversation with someone on a train journey?

Probably a couple of factors to be taken into consideration:
1) you spend time reviewing the people using the car sharing application, and they have ratings, testimonials and all sorts of things, including a picture to help you chose the people you would like to travel with;
2) in a train you have absolutely no idea who the person is opposite you on the train (unless you are travelling with them, duh). Should I say hello, should I offer them a sweet, will they feel uncomfortable etc...

The bus traveller

As for me, the bus journey was a mix of both chatty people and loners that kept to themselves (but let's face it, you run out of ideas on a 12-hour journey so a cheerful hello and story from a stranger is worth its weight in gold). Families travelling together that were clearly 'obligation meeters' visiting relatives, or going on a cheap holiday across the border and having the luxury of being able to pack as much holiday stuff needed without any restrictions. The loners were predominantly 'cultural purists' or back packers, travelling vast distances across Europe on a budget. They were sprawled out across a couple of chairs and slept for most of the way (they were the lucky ones).

One thing these different segments show is that there is a willingness to meet new people on the journey, much more so if there is information in advance of the trip pertaining to the travellers. Now, this may not be everybody's cup of tea or coffee, but with social platforms being used more and more for travel this will be common place. Do we like it? We probably won't have a choice... long live the 'social capital seekers'!

Want to find out more about the different traveller types mentioned?

Then download our free White Paper 'Future Traveller Tribes' for forward-looking rail passenger stats analysis.

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