Future Priorities for the West Coast Main Line

31/10/2014 By Tim Sander

Transport Focus (formerly known as Passenger Focus) and Network Rail approached BVA BDRC looking to understand passengers’ priorities for the West Coast Main Line if proposals for a high speed rail line (HS2) between London, the Midlands and the North were to go ahead. If the proposals were approved, many passengers would move to the new high speed line, resulting in increased capacity on the current West Coast Main Line.

BVA BDRC surveyed over 5,000 passengers who use the West Coast Main Line (WCML), utilising the Choice Based Conjoint methodology to find out their reactions to changes to services. BVA BDRC presented passengers with pairs of different scenarios for the provision of train services and asked them to indicate their preference. These scenarios involved different frequencies of service, journey times and levels of crowding. For those passengers whose journeys involved interchanges, connection times were also included as a factor. To support this research, BVA BDRC also interviewed 1,000 people who travelled a West Coast Main Line route by car, to understand how the released capacity on the WCML might be best utilised to encourage non-rail users to use the train more often in the future.

The insight derived from this study enabled Network Rail and Transport Focus to understand which aspects of a train journey would be most likely to affect passenger experience, as well as the appeal of the different levels of each aspect (for example, how frequent a service needs to be in order to make a journey as positive an experience as possible). This research has equipped Network Rail with the necessary insight to plan feasible alternatives for operating services along the WCML. BVA BDRC’s survey is one of the largest Conjoint studies to have been carried out in the Transport industry for some years and has been hailed in peer review as “one of the most analytically rigorous studies of its type”.

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