This week, consumer watchdog Which revealed that rail passengers lost four million hours to train delays last year, with an average of 660 cancellations per day.
It’s hardly surprising. Any regular commuter will have experienced a delay, cancellation or disruption recently – perhaps you’re experiencing one right now, in fact.
This weekend’s Spring Bank Holiday will see London Euston undergoing major improvement work, closing some lines. Meanwhile, Transport for London has planned closures, with those jetting off for half-term particularly disrupted thanks to the lack of Piccadilly line trains running between Hammersmith and Heathrow.
Aside from the all-too-familiar frustrations of Bank Holiday improvement works, rail replacement buses, and cancelled journeys, the biggest issue is the time wasted by these disruptions – something that is precious and crucial when taking a weekend away or heading on holiday.
We’re accustomed to having convenience at our fingertips and it’s normal now to expect services to work for you, on-demand, and tailored to your needs. Why sit through ad breaks when you can stream a show on Netflix? Or if you’ve had to work late, why not order a takeaway on Deliveroo rather than cooking?
Access to these on-demand options gives us our time back, and sets the benchmark for how we expect services to run in 2019.
But while they do plenty of good, many traditional transport services often leave travellers feeling frustrated, which is particularly concerning given the amount of money Brits spend on season tickets.
And yet, there are some simple ways that could improve this for consumers, such as further integrating National Rail and other lines within Citymapper to foreworn people of future disruption, while providing alternative solutions in advance.
Or perhaps train operators could provide discounts for the weekend after any planned disruptions, in order to keep people engaged.
Many firms are providing more convenient travel options to consumers, and rail operators should apply the same consumer-first thinking.
On a local level, Citymapper challenges traditional public transport options by offering its own bus service, providing smarter, data-driven routes. Lime brings the convenience of dockless e-bikes, while Virtuo takes the pain-points out of traditional car rental.
And if Elon Musk or Richard Branson get their way, we may one day have an Hyperloop too, which could cut an Edinburgh to London journey down to 29 minutes.
There’s a wealth of examples, but the common thread is that these companies put convenience first – they often have fully mobile propositions, flexible departure points, data-driven insight, and can be cheaper than a train ticket too.
This approach is the way forward, and traditional transport offerings need to follow in these companies’ footsteps if they wish to keep up – otherwise they’re just delaying the inevitable.
And for travellers wanting to avoid the Bank Holiday chaos, take back control by using on-demand transport services.