Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Understanding the input/output data that people use in planning and making their travelling decisions

  Carina Yu Zhao (2021 cohort)

This project will investigate the decision-making process of railway’s potential customers using an interdisciplinary lens. Trains, as one the safest and most environmentally friendly way to travel, allowing large numbers of people to move medium and long distances quickly at the same time, are an important part of the British passenger movement (Williams Rail Review, 2019). Due to rail’s high fixed costs of track, signal, and station infrastructure, which do not change significantly with passenger numbers, it is not cost-efficient when service demand is low (Williams Rail Review, 2019). This feature has been further amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic by a sharp decline in rail travel (Office of rail and road, 2021). Therefore, attracting potential customers to travel by rail is particularly important for the railway industry.

There are reasonable numbers of existing research and statistics focus on rail passengers' experiences (Office of rail and road, 2020). In comparison, the research that focuses on rail travel that had the potential to happen, but did not, (there are potential customers who have considered taking the train but, for some reason, end up choosing other modes of travel), is still limited.

In addition, current research, especially large-scaled statistics, are highly focused on Passengers' evaluation of railway services (e.g. how satisfied they are about a certain railway service (Transport focus, 2020)) and pay less attention to how these evaluations and other information affect their future travel decision-making. The research on the latter can help railways understand what kind of services and information they need to provide and how/when/where to provide them, in order to best attract potential customers to make the decision to travel by train.  

Therefore, this PhD project intends to make use of concepts and ideas taken from computer science and data science, human factors, and transport studies to explore when and what input data people are seeking when making travelling decisions and how they 'process' it, and can therefore assist the rail industry to improve their service and attract those passengers who have the potential to travel by train. It is hoped that this will lead to contributions towards making the rail more attractive for passengers while securing the sustainable benefits of the railway (Williams Rail Review, 2021). This project also attempts to develop a method to capture, understand and analyse people's subjective decision-making processes on a large scale in a digital way.

Reference list

Office of Rail and Road. (2020). Passenger Rail Service Complaints 2019-20 Quarter 4, (June), 1–31. Retrieved from https://dataportal.orr.gov.uk/media/1240/passenger-rail-usage-2018-19-q4.pdf

Office of Rail and Road. (2021). Passenger rail usage 2021-22 Q2, 1–20. Retrieved from https://dataportal.orr.gov.uk/statistics/usage/passenger-rail-usage/

Transport Focus. (2020). National Rail Passenger Survey: Main Report Spring 2020, (July), 1-63. Retrieved from https://d3cez36w5wymxj.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/16180916/Main-Report-Spring-2020.pdf

Williams rail review. (2019). The role of the railway in Great Britain. Retrieved from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/955352/role-of-railway-evidence-paper-rail-review-document.pdf

Williams rail review. (2021). Great British Railways: The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail. Retrieved from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/994603/gbr-williams-shapps-plan-for-rail.pdf