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Perceived Travel Time & Real-Time Passenger Information

KeTech explores the link between perceived travel time & real-time passenger information systems

Time, the world’s most precious commodity and one we can’t create any more of. But just how precious is it? One way of thinking about it is in terms of opportunity cost — or what economists call the value of what you forgo by doing one thing and not the other. The hour you spent commuting or mowing the lawn cost you an hour of doing something you really want to be doing.

Perceived travel time is the duration that the passenger felt that he/she was spending between the departure and arrival. Generally, the perceived travel time could be either greater or lesser than the actual travel time due to various reasons. This is especially true in terms of rail travel regarding dissatisfaction with punctuality and delays. In the most recent National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS), highlighted as one of the main complaints that Train Operating Company’s (TOC’s) face are train delays. Delays can’t always be avoided but broken communication can, research shows that organisations, including other modes of transports, have seen a decline in complaints surrounding this issue after implementing effective Real-Time Information Systems.

Why? Through providing passengers with real-time arrival and departure information, you may decrease their perceived travel time. Additional information provides the passenger with the power to re-arrange their time more efficiently and work around a delayed train. People like to have choices; it gives them control. This is true in many aspects (if not all) of people’s lives, and it is no exception when travelling. Real – time information should provide the passenger with all the information they need to make these choices. By how many minutes is the train delayed? Is there an alternative route or another train arriving soon? Is there another mode of transport they can take? Informed passengers are empowered passengers. However too many options can be overwhelming. When providing passengers with options it is imperative to streamline them in order to help make the passengers decision easier, not more difficult.

Ideally passengers would rather know that their train is going to be late in advance, rather than being told one minute before it is supposed to arrive. This can’t always be avoided but this is when true Real-Time information and alternative options carry the most importance. If a passenger knows that a train is going to be ten minutes late it allows them to be more productive with their day, for example they may go to the bank or pick up some lunch, allowing them to use each minute of their day more efficiently and ultimately decreasing the perceived wait/travel time and in turn reduces passenger complaints.

Train Operating Companies have the opportunity to create a lesser perceived travel time for rail passengers. The subsequent increase in customer satisfaction will make rail travel a more appealing option to car drivers. Not only will this increase the TOC’s revenue but they will be positively contributing to a greener environment by reducing the number of cars on the road.

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