Ironing out the kinks at Waterloo

18/01/2018 By Thomas Folqué
Research Problem 

South West Trains (SWT) and Network Rail (NR) are upgrading the infrastructure at London Waterloo station to accommodate longer trains and increase passenger capacity at the station, thereby improving the passenger experience. Some of this work has had an impact on passengers because of a temporary reduction in capacity and a revised timetable.
Communications were developed to introduce the work and service alterations to passengers in good time ahead of the engineering works.

Transport Focus, working with SWT and NR, engaged BVA BDRC to explore passengers’ awareness and understanding of the works, and to gauge reactions to the planned alterations and how these were being communicated.

Research Approach 

We started with focus groups to test communications ahead of the planned works.  We then used multiple waves of a quantitative survey, consisting of face-to-face (paper self-completion questionnaire) and online sample (recruited through SWT season ticket holder database and Twitter account).  This allowed us to track awareness of the communications, understand passengers' viewpoints and look at how people planned to change their behaviour so as to work around the disruption.


The research showed that awareness of the planned upgrade works was high and subsequently rose from wave to wave.  Passenger understanding of the works and future benefits was also good, testament to the successful communications campaign.  As a result, the ‘chaos’ predicted* did not come about and most agreed that it was a well handled redevelopment programme.

Transport Focus have published their report Railway engineering work: Putting passengers at the heart of the London Waterloo upgrade to which this research contributed.

Read more in my blog  ‘How Waterloo avoided chaos’. Or get in touch to discuss how we can help with your communications research.

*Guardian 7 Aug 17 - Predicted Waterloo rail chaos fails to materialise