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User Experience

A Key Challenge for Railway Sector Development
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Luis Mendoza

Director
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Spain, with more than 3,000 high-speed train track kilometers, tops every other European country in this regard, and stands third in the world behind only China and Japan. Moreover, Spain"s railway structure has 11,483 km of conventional railway, 119 km of mixed system railway and 1,207 km of narrow-gauge railway.

The Spanish railway industry has offered innovative next generation products and solutions that have been developed and implemented in more than 80 countries. It has become a leader and worldwide reference in the sector as recognized by MAFEX, the association that joins together more than 70 Spanish railway industry enterprises and accounts for about 85% railway exports from the country.

 

The number of subsectors involved in the value chain of the rail industry is extensive: construction, electrification, stations, maintenance, fixed materials and equipment, components and onboard equipment, machinery and equipment for rolling stock manufacturing, manufacturers, builders, interiors, security, engineering, consulting, signaling, traffic control, telecommunications and ticketing. To maintain their leading positions in the Spanish railway sector, the companies that provide such services must invest in continuous innovation and technological development as a prerequisite for participation in the business. Their innovative solutions have been developed and implemented in railway projects carried out both in Spain and in international markets, as more than 50% of exports of Spanish SMEs are to countries of the European Union, one of the most demanding railway markets in the world.

In Spain alone, RENFE transported more than 465 million passengers in 2015. RENFE Cercanías carried more than 1,100,000 people per day, while its high-speed trains (AVE) and Long Distance, ended the year 2015 with almost 31 million passengers, a record second consecutive year.

Increasing the volume of customers each year requires significant investment in technical and economic resources, and user satisfaction is and will be key to the business. Evolving the user experience is essential, especially in the context of the arrival of new generations of passengers, who may enjoy new habits that must be satisfied to attract and retain them as customers.

We must analyze their expectations, adaptability to new technologies, new ideas about comfort and efficiency, concerns about the sustainability and security. We also need to advance in terms of accessibility for all users, study the implications the ageing population, needs of disabled people, passengers carrying baggage, sustainability, safety, etc. 

In short, the customer experience must be defined to the smallest detail, from how to buy a ticket to the environment of the station entrance, hallways, corridors of access, wagons...

 

In the immediate future we will see innovative railway station concepts, with new furnishings capable of satisfying the user experience needs of the most demanding customers.

We will see solutions that meet the needs of consumers who are increasingly aware of the value of railway services, and who care about sustainable solutions and want to make the most of their trips.


Having a good understanding of consumers, and adding value to maintain and increase the differentiation between railway travel and its competitors, is necessary. Otherwise, railway transportation will become a market of cheap seats, and without any special attraction, companies may not make their economic forecasts by objective values. If railway companies do not have unique selling points, the user - mostly unfaithful - will change to other means of transportation at their convenience. It is imperative, therefore, to increase customers loyalty and make them change the habit of looking for the cheapest option.

Redesigning the passenger experience by offering onboard services with higher added value is just what the traveler demands, as is providing better and/or additional services before boarding and after disembarking.

Perhaps, without losing sight of economic figures, by putting the passenger as the center of the operation, not the train, the railway sector can achieve higher revenues and convert travelers into loyal allies.

 
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