Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

What can expert rail travelers tell us about passenger decision making?

  Shalaka Kurup (2015 cohort)   www.shalakakurup.com

Frequent travellers have been said to have “expert knowledge" (Gustafson, 2012) regarding their own commutes, resulting in an accumulation of relevant journey information (Grotenhuis et al., 2007). This could cause the development of certain behavioural characteristics, such as a preference for the quickest route on their journey (Hine & Scott, 2000), a requirement for more high-level information during their trip, or limited responsiveness to additional information provided to them (Chorus et al., 2006). Here, travel experience is an example of the personal context that modifies information collection and use. The question is: what can these experts tell us about the interaction between the experiential and informational elements of rail travel, and subsequently, the manner in which it decision making? This project looks to benefit from the expertise that comes with being a frequent traveller, and develop a practical understanding of the characteristics of passenger decision making.

The aim of this PhD. is to investigate how information provision can be effectively optimised to match the requirements of a rail traveller, based on their prior experience with and/or knowledge of railway travel, in order to enhance their experience. Theoretically, with the acknowledgement of the influence that an advanced level of knowledge has on information processing and decision making, the research questions asked will be as follows:

Prior provision of background information has been found to influence both individual information processing and decision making approaches (Garling et al., 1997) – can this effect be seen with regards to the advanced knowledge that comes with frequent rail travel?

Experts are known to rely on heuristics, past decisions and minimal information processing whilst operating within their area of proficiency (Shanteau, 1988) – does this extend to the process of rail travel?

If so, should methods of information provision adapt to reflect and/or match the different informational needs of a traveller, based on their pre-existing proficiency in rail travel?


  1. Kurup, S., Golightly, D., & Wilson, N. Understanding rail travel through the curation of personal data. Proceedings of the 2016 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing: Adjunct (2016) 541-546.
  2. Kurup, S., Golightly, D., & Wilson, N. Curating rail travel through personal data: habit and context. Proceedings of the European Transport Conference (2016).
  3. Kurup, S., Golightly, D., Clarke, D., & Sharples, S. Ride along: Expertise and information use during rail travel. Proceedings of the 6th Rail Human Factors Conference (2017).

This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (RCUK Grant No. EP/L015463/1) and Rail Safety and Standards Board, Rail Delivery Group, Network Rail.