Background

Chiltern Railways operates passenger trains from Marylebone Station, London to Birmingham and beyond. It is recognised as one of the most successful train companies in the UK with high levels of customer satisfaction.

Clarke Associates has been commissioned by Chiltern Railways on several occasions to undertake research and engagement work including, at the outset, a programme to develop an understanding of the business market for a lower cost service operating between Birmingham and London.


Brief

Our most recent commission was to determine the perceptions, attitudes and requirements of the business market utilising the London to Birmingham route. This was in advance of the introduction of Evergreen III: a development to reduce travel time between Birmingham and London so as to become more competitive with rival West Coast Mainline.


Method

Clarke Associates had previously undertaken a series of Focus groups on behalf of Chiltern Railways but it was felt that in this instance, a wider discussion was required, involving larger numbers of business people. One of the principal aims was to recruit a series of “champions” for Chiltern Railways: business people who would endorse the service and encourage their colleagues to make use of it.

Three events were held at Chiltern Railways’ Moor Street Station (using the ‘glass box’ conference and event facility at the station). A total of 70 business people participated in these sessions each one of which lasted for about 90 minutes.

The session comprised a presentation on Chiltern Railways’ ambitions and was followed by a discussion, chaired by us and in accordance with a topic guide that had been produced by the company. The purpose was to obtain qualitative information on the likes and dislikes of business travellers (using a variety of travel means) and establish what they would look for from an enhanced rail service.

A comprehensive report, including ideas generated from the three sessions, was produced by Clarke Associates.


Outcome

The three sessions informed Chiltern Railways business and marketing decisions in respect of the proposed service. A significant number of elements discussed at the meetings were incorporated including a proposed “business zone” on peak-time trains; the introduction of wifi; greater emphasis and reliability on an in-train refreshments service and also changes to parking and public transport provision. Champions are kept informed of developments and also invited to receptions and events organised by the company. Business use of the services continues to grow.