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The image shows a new rail replacement bus in purple livery.

Guest article by Felix Thielmann und Katrin Reichert for Deutsche Bahn

The situation: time to rethink rail replacement services

Due to extensive work on the rail network rail replacement services will significantly increase over the years to come. Customer surveys show that when a train is cancelled, rather than use an available rail replacement service passengers switch to car transport. A little over a year ago a DB group-wide program team found that a comprehensive rethink was necessary, along with a new concept for rail replacement services.

What shape should rail replacement services take in order to attract passengers, to ensure they leave their car at home and for the new product to make a long-term impact on the mobility transition? From the outset of product development the resultant NEW RAIL REPLACEMENT SERVICES placed a firm emphasis on passenger needs– in order to achieve their aims the program team conceived various measures.

The image shows bicycles arriving to be transported by new rail replacement services.

Product development: involving the customer to meet their needs

When product development began the program team decided it was important to comprehensively analyse the pain points in order to precisely identify the things that most annoy passengers. To that end they not only conducted customer surveys but also a practical test of various rail replacement services. Pain points at every stage, i.e. before, during and after the trip were thoroughly documented and analysed, while suggestions on how to improve services were taken from passengers.

While testing the services and in conversation with passengers, as well as the pain points the team also identified a number of functional product elements worth retaining and developing. These included the additional use of passenger guides to accompany services and equipping bus fleets with luggage compartments. Numerous employees in a wide range of positions and from all parts of the DB Group were interviewed for suggestions on how to improve services, in some cases exchanging information on a regular basis. As a result of the many constructive ideas submitted a goal for new rail replacement services was conceived and product development began.

A website for pooling and continually incorporating passengers’ suggestions was also set up. Anyone, whether passengers, employees or interested persons, can use this website to submit constructive ideas for new rail replacement services and in doing so can actively assist product development. After only two weeks 118 useful suggestions were received, including on colours for identifying the buses, bicycle transport and group tours.

The graphic hints at customers’ active involvement with their ideas.

New rail replacement services in action

In the meantime the many ideas and suggestions received from customers have resulted in a customer-focused product. New rail replacement services are for the first time now operating on a rail section closed between Nürnberg and Würzburg until 11 September 2023. Details and general product information on the new rail replacement services can be found on the landing page or in this article in the newsletter of Regio Aktuell.

A new rail replacement bus awaits passengers getting off a train.

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