The challenge was to identify and obtain interviews from rail passengers about their travelling experiences without going on to platforms or even rail stations as the operators would not give their permission.  Our client wanted to know the best way of doing this.

So our advice, after some cogitation, was to lurk in the alleyway approaches to stations and hit people between car, bus or bike and station.  The next part of our solution was an online survey, which we put together and managed.

The client needed to know about passengers travel patterns and experiences of using that particular route. Also, whether they had ever used any alternative travel routes.

Delaying passengers by trying to talk to them, still less interviewing them, as they rush for a train is wholly unrealistic.  Our client simply handed out leaflets to people on the run, which told them about the survey and its reasons and how to fill it in online.  The leaflets had a QR code so that anyone with a smart phone could do the survey on the train if they wished.

The stations we covered were grouped by line and destination.  We used different surveys for each group so we could monitor progress daily – how many responses and top line marked up questionnaires –and feed it back to our client.  So our client in turn could turn up or down the volume of leaflets at specific stations or groups according the feedback.  This daily liaison ensured that both the quota at individual stations was achieved by the end of the time frame and the results were statistically reliable.

When the online survey was finished we merged all the data into one file. This meant we provided our client with data tables analysed by the various groups of stations.  With this information the client could then assess the reactions of passengers from different geographical areas.

Not for nothing does travelling by rail – especially commuting –get ‘customers’ (NB Not’ ‘passengers’) steamed up.