Customer experience and the future of sustainable train travel

By 11th December 2020 December 13th, 2020 No Comments

Following our recent work with HS1 and other shared mobility providers, we reflect on the future of sustainable train travel and argue for the need for the rail industry to look beyond infrastructure and refocus on customer experience.

In February, the government launched a strategy document starting the process of creating a plan for the decarbonisation of transport with public transport at its heart. ‘We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network.’  The rail industry is already decarbonising, exploring renewable energy sources and the generation of sustainable traction energy in the search for alternatives to overhead power lines and diesel engines.  In autumn, the UK’s first hydrogen-powered train made its maiden voyage.  We are only talking about a 25-mile round trip with maximum speed of 50 miles per hour but it’s definitely a positive start!

Beyond decarbonisation

Decarbonisation though is only one piece of the jigsaw.  By its very nature, sustainability has to have the customer or client at its heart, needs to bring together all stakeholders and involve all areas of the business.  This is something that HS1 Ltd embraced when we recently worked with them to create their industry-leading sustainability strategy.  The UK’s only high-speed railway recognised the need for collective action with key stakeholders; and a joined-up approach to address climate change, energy and resource use, social impact and biodiversity.  HS1 is the ‘Green Gateway to Europe’ but the company understands that people will only continue to choose trains over aeroplanes if the whole experience is positive.

The whole customer journey

The concept of customer-focus presents a real challenge for an industry that is traditionally slow to change, more focused on the systems and network than the end user, and has a very complex network of stakeholders.  One particular challenge is around the integration of train with onward travel.  For some time now, railway franchise agreements have required franchisees to consider onward travel arrangements as part of their winning bids but arguably this has not been fully embraced and certainly not enforced.  Train travel can’t become truly sustainable though without considering the rest of people’s journeys.  Digitisation of ticketing and the growth in e-mobility can facilitate this home-to-destination agenda but it requires public and private sector to work together.  Only through true collaboration will we see mobility as a service with customers able to buy end-to-end tickets and a shift towards shared rather than personally-owned modes of transport.


Through our work, not just in shared mobility but across many diverse industries, we know that sustainability and circularity only work when the customer is at the heart.  The rail industry is trying to get to grips with this and we feel we are well placed to support them in the future of sustainable train travel.

Can we help your business?

QSA Partners is a specialist team of circular economy and sustainable business experts with extensive experience in mobility, infrastructure and consumer markets. We have worked with many well and lesser known brands including adidas, HS1 Ltd, Samsung, riversimple and Ikea.  Our extensive experience across a broad range of industries gives us a unique perspective that benefits all our clients.  We believe that better business models – whether based on sustainability or circular economy principles – help our clients stay relevant, grow market share and open up different markets in this rapidly changing world, providing business resilience against the impacts and risks of climate change. Find out more about our services or contact us to see how we can help your business benefit.


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