The UIC, together with leading urban transport operators and innovative solution providers, debated ways of bringing passengers back on board safely during a webinar, “ Restoring passenger confidence in rail: the power of demand management ” held on 7 July. The webinar was organised by the International Railway Summit in association with passenger flow experts Veovo.
The most important issue for passenger rail today is to get the public back on trains and reassure them that public transport is safe.
As the pandemic spread, there was “a lot of firefighting”, said webinar moderator Dr. Carsten Lotz, Partner at McKinsey Paris, adding that there is “a lot of uncertainty going forward” with regard to future demand. Passenger numbers remains lower than pre-pandemic levels, with significantly lower numbers in some cases.
Reassuring the public is not only vital for the rail sector itself; the railways can play an important role in helping society to thrive once again.
Hard lessons learned from the pandemic
Marc Guigon, Passenger Director at UIC and Coordinator of its Covid-19 Taskforce, shared best practices gathered by UIC over the past 16 months from its 205 members in 95 countries. Juan Tébar Molinero, COO of Madrid Metro, and Frank Ibe, Head of Bakerloo & Victoria Line Operations, Transport for London (TfL), gave a presentation on how they had reacted to the pandemic and the lessons learned, including social distancing measures, hygiene, contactless ticketing options, and capacity control.
Increasing and managing demand
Now, said Mr Guigon, it is important for rail passengers to be able to forget the challenges of travel. Seamless ticketing, real-time information and robust hygiene measures can enable safe journeys undertaken in confidence.
Peter Knudsen, Managing Director of Veovo, said that passengers want safety, availability, reliability and live information they can act on. Which are the busiest times? Which carriages are the most crowded? Digitalisation is the path to restored confidence and resilience, he concluded. It is a matter of helping passengers make informed decisions which will in turn help operators.
Mr Tébar Molinero said that Madrid Metro is closely monitoring, analysing and managing passenger demand. For Mr Ibe, successfully restoring confidence also requires improving perception. Bringing the public back on board is not just about the “what” – the journey from A to B – but also the “why”. An extensive marketing campaign in stations, magazines, on television and online, called ”Let’s do London”, seeks to connect emotionally with customers. The campaign, supported by TfL, reminds potential passengers of what they have missed during the pandemic – friends, theatre, clubs, etc.
Understanding future travel trends post-pandemic
”What do passengers want from their experience in 2021?”, asked Mr Guigon. It is essential that the sector learn about the public’s concerns and desires and how they can best be addressed. What will be our new working habits? What levels of cleanliness, comfort and security do we require? What are our environmental and social concerns? Indeed, the climate crisis, and how rail can build on its green credentials, is likely to be the dominant trend in the coming decades. How can the sector lead the way and shift passengers from cars and planes to trains?
“Public transport must be the engine of economic recovery,” said Mr Tébar Molinero, and all speakers agreed that as we make our way through a new normal, we must do so by rail.
The webinar is now available to watch free of charge on demand. To watch the full debate, please visit https://www.irits.org/irswebinars/restoring-passenger-confidence-in-rail-the-power-of-demand-management/