The evolution of the transport industry

guy-bruce-rail-professional-heroThe transport sector faces challenging times in the next five to ten years, with lots of factors increasing pressure on the network.

Supply chain partners will be essential in helping the industry navigate through challenges – especially in bringing innovation and best practice from other sectors.


The transport trilemma

At the moment the transport industry is facing a trilemma; three challenges that, on the surface, seem relentless.

  1. Numbers: in London we expect 10 million residents by 2030
  2. Expectations: passengers want and expect more from public transport than ever before
  3. Budgets: major planned infrastructure projects that have begun won’t be ready in time to solve the problems that are growing now

The industry needs to find a way to release the pressure valve; something that enables operators to maintain their service and improve passenger experience until new infrastructure is available. This is where we come in. Support partners can play a bigger part in day-to-day management; running the support functions that are vital to the overall experience but aren’t core services.

Customer experience in rail travel

Customers used to be focused on the functional: what activity do I need to do (shopping, eating, catching a train etc.) and how and where can I do it? Today customers are more interested in the experience. It’s not just a question of what, where and how much. They want a positive overall experience above and beyond individual activities, and meeting this expectation requires a different way of thinking.

The focus on the experience is why Interserve is going to be so important to this sector in the coming years. How well or poorly we maintain the train and station environments has a direct impact not just on the passenger’s experience of that location; it colours all aspects of their journey.

Changes in the transport industry

The biggest change by far is how public facing our work has become. Historically the public, and many customers, wanted support personnel like guards, maintenance operatives and cleaners to keep a low profile. We were the silent army of UK transport. Things are very different now. The planning, purchasing and management of journeys has moved from ticket halls to self-service or smart phones, while customer service is now online or via social media.

We’ve put a great deal of time into training our teams in customer service. We’re also looking at cross-skilling employees to carry out multiple roles – for example, training cleaners to carry out basic maintenance work.

What’s next for transport?

Transport has been slow to embrace new technology. There are pockets of excellence – for example, Transport for London’s open-sourcing of all its transport data – but the sector is lagging behind.

Now is the time to change that. There is real drive behind the idea of smart cities, where information and communication technology will be woven into the fabric of our cities. Rail stations are natural focal points, and if we embrace the new technologies that are emerging, we will see even more investment and development pouring into the industry as time goes on.

Find out more…

Read my interview with Rail Professional Magazine here (pgs 78-85).


Guy Bruce

Guy Bruce is managing director - infrastructure and industrial, at Interserve.