Delays on the line; nudging to reduce passenger-caused delays

By Tim Sander

People are creatures of habit, and nowhere is this more evident than on our daily commute to work.

If you are a regular commuter, you will probably recognise this phenomenon; sometimes you arrive at work and cannot even recall your journey. This is because your brain has switched into System 1 mode – as coined by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman – allowing you to minimise your cognitive effort and effectively putting you on autopilot.

But if someone takes your favourite seat – or if you suddenly need to change your journey plans – you are thrown out of ‘auto-pilot mode’ and must engage in conscious thought about your journey. You start to rely on your slower, more conscious System 2 processes, making the details of your journey more salient and more memorable.

At BVA Nudge Unit, we focus on applying behavioural science to understand and influence subconscious habits, often through small interventions (‘nudges’) that break established patterns and encourage positive behaviours. And as a regular Southeastern train passenger, I was particularly pleased when they asked our team to help address the problem of train delays.

Specifically, the focus was on reducing delays that are not tied to engineering or operational problems such as signalling faults, but instead the often sub-conscious and unintentional actions of those of us travelling on the trains.

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