There is an appetite within the rail travel industry to make the railway easier to use and more accessible for all passengers. This is evident from the recently released Rail Technical Strategy (2020) which was developed in consultation with multiple railway stakeholders. Aligning with the functional priority ‘Easy to Use for All’ within this top level strategy, my research will explore the ways in which data and technology could be used and/or adapted to make access to the railway easier for passengers that are less tech-savvy or tech-interested than other rail users. As an integral component of the current railway passenger experience, my PhD research will focus on the ticketing systems and processes that users encounter and have to navigate to be able to gain authority to travel on the rail network. In other words, I will look at making the process undertaken by passengers to plan, buy and use rail tickets simpler, more personalised, and better accommodating for all users in terms of digital accessibility.
To do this I will take a mixed methods approach to understanding the ticketing system from both a user and organisational perspective. This will include quantitative and qualitative analysis of online questionnaires, passenger comments on review websites and existing industry datasets to establish an understanding of how passengers feel about the current ticketing system and areas for potential improvement. Following this, through a series of interviews with rail industry professionals, as well as observations of and conversations with less tech-savvy rail customers, I will gain an understanding of how both the industry perceives and passengers use the ticketing system with the aim of identifying any differences and/or similarities with how the system is supposed to be working compared to how these passengers actually use it.
By undertaking this research, I will give voice to consumers that are commonly marginalised by new technologies and academic theories that emphasise the need to consult the most tech-aware customers to trial and implement new innovations. These insights will enable me to make recommendations to the rail industry on how they can improve accessibility policies and standards to better accommodate less tech-savvy passengers and remove any technological, psychological or physical barriers that may be inhibiting their ability to access rail services in an efficient manner. This will contribute to my overall objective of being able to make the railway a more attractive and accessible mode of transport for all passengers.