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by Trisha McAuley, Transport Focus
15 December 2022
Associate Feature: What matters to passengers?

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Associate Feature: What matters to passengers?

To take transport users on the journey to net-zero, Transport Focus stands ready to assist by ensuring the passengers’ needs and aspirations inform the decision making process:

New trains

We have committed in law to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 (with interim supporting targets).

To support these targets there is a focus on decarbonising transport through encouraging people to move from road to rail, and decarbonising rail traction energy through the removal of diesel passenger trains from the Scottish network by 2035.

This will require significant investment in new trains. Emerging technologies in battery and hydrogen power will help - but it’s also important that train design is informed by existing and potential passengers to achieve the goal of modal shift.

Transport Focus has long argued that it is vital for passengers to be involved in the design of new trains at the earliest opportunity. Getting people’s opinions at the right level, at the right time, can avoid trains that are not fit for purpose or, worse, actively off-putting to potential passengers. 

As the procurement process begins for a new generation of trains to meet our net zero targets, it’s important passengers have the chance to influence the design of new trains.



ScotRail’s May 2022 timetable consultation received 3450 responses, which is more than for any other consultation in ScotRail’s history. We recognise that with all timetable recasts there are both benefits and disbenefits.

We have undertaken research to explore passengers’ views on different types of timetable ‘models’ and the experience of changing trains ‘Changing trains versus direct trains - passenger views’.

Overall we found that when rail passengers evaluate different models of train service and timetable design, their priorities are broadly consistent. Passengers consider it important to have trains which run at a high frequency, trains which offer competitive journey times and trains which run directly to places that they want to go to.

Most importantly, however, passengers prioritise the reliability of trains in terms of the predictability of the journey, though they do so less consciously than they do the other aspects of train services. 

For passengers, while there is little clamour to have direct trains from their starting station to new destinations, needing to change train during a journey is nevertheless seen as a compromise which is best avoided. Despite this, the undesirability of making a change can be mitigated if it can be done with relative ease and in comfort, and if it can be shown that the need to make a change can benefit the reliability of the train service overall. 

Cross border rail services

The introduction of the reduced timetable affecting West Coast Main Line services by Avanti West Coast and Transpennine Express has affected the passenger experience.

The most important thing train operators can do in the event of disruption is to consider the perspective of their passengers. Our recent research with passengers affected tells us passengers want the following principles to be followed: 

  • Inform me – passengers need clear, comparable, and timely information to be able to make decisions. Be open and transparent, let passengers know the frequency of services on each route, duration of reduced timetable and any capacity constraints.
  • Reassure me – give passengers confidence that you know what you are doing. Passengers should be able to access services at a price and quality that suits their needs. Ease of making/amending reservations, timetable is published well in advance, access to full range of fares and an enjoyable journey experience at stations and onboard, providing a visible and empathetic staff presence.
  • Reparations – be clear on my rights as a consumer to redress and compensation. Providing certainty together with meeting the above principles would improve the passenger experience.


Trisha McAuley OBE is a Transport Focus Board member for Scotland.

This article is sponsored by Transport Focus.

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