What makes train travel good?
Elron • www.elron.ee
Elron, the Estonian passenger train operator, asked us to find out what makes train travel good. So we looked into it and talked to everyone. From frequent daily commuters to special needs travellers to first-timers.
Since 2013, Elron has been in operating a fleet of 38 state-of-the-art Stadler trains. Fast forward a decade, and they have seen significant growth in passenger numbers, with an astonishing 40% increase just last year, nearly reaching the 9 million passenger mark this year. Despite the spike in passenger numbers, the fleet size has remained static which has inevitably lead to overcrowded trains and an increase in passenger grievances.
Our mission, was to dive deep into the psyche of the modern train traveler and summarise as well as prioritise, what Elron needs to do in the future, to improve the experience of all the different passengers. (Huge shout-out to the trio of anthropology students from Tallinn University, who swapped their lecture halls for train compartments and platforms.) Over 90 in-depth interviews were conducted across the country and culminated in a validation survey that garnered nearly 4,600 responses. We identified seven distinct passenger profiles. To illustrate the level of detail: we divided their journey into 5 stages, each made up of 6-11 different steps, summing up to hundreds of touchpoints to analyse.
And what did we uncover? Well, it turns out that train travel isn't just about the trains. It's an end-to-end journey that starts long before passengers hop onboard and continues well after they step off. The entire ecosystem – getting to the station, the in-train experience, and reaching the final destination – all have significant room for improvement.
This led us to the next stage of our project where collaboration is king – a multi-stakeholder initiative involving public transport authorities, tech developers, real estate owners and even the architects behind those "charming but impractical" platforms. Speaking of which, some are already under renovation! Stay tuned for more news, as things are getting better bit by bit.
It truly isn't the train that makes the experience good. It is everything else.