The new Midland Metro extension in Birmingham has brought new passengers to the Metro, some of whom had never used this form of transport before. The extension takes passengers from Snow Hill to Grand Central station, previously New Street station, and runs every 6 minuets at peak times. Ahead of its opening, Travel for West Midlands predicted the new offering would attract a new set of people to the service and put a survey in place to gauge more insight.
To test their predictions, TfWM drew up a detailed questionnaire to ascertain who was using the service, how they had previously made the journey and what their travel habits were.
Protel Fieldwork, a Coventry-based agency with a national reach, won the tender to carry out the research which involved deploying teams of researchers to stand at each of the 26 stops on the Metro route and conduct more than 1,800 interviews.
Protel Fieldwork covered peak, off-peak and Saturday journeys in order to get a good cross section of current Midland Metro users.
Once analysed, the data showed that the extension had indeed, appealed to a wider cross section of the population than the previous line.
The data showed that more than a quarter of passengers questioned hadn’t used the Metro before the extension to Grand Central opened. The effect was shown most amongst commuters(with 32% being new users) and business passengers (of which 40% were new users.)
the outcome of the survey shows response to the new service has been positive. Two-thirds of those questioned stated the Metro extension had made their journey quicker, and seven out of ten felt ‘more positive’ about their Metro journey. Four out of ten passengers were making a new journey or travelling more frequently since the opening of the city centre service.
Sara Harte, principal insight analyst of Travel for West Midlands, comments: “As our experience had suggested, there were lots of new users, people who had not been on the Metro before. One of the reasons they gave for using the Metro was that it was better than buses because it didn’t get caught up in congestion.”
“Having good quality data is really important to us. You can have a feel for what is happening in your market but you don’t know for sure until you do the research,” said Sara. “Now that we have it, we can use it for marketing campaigns and building our case going forward.”
To build an accurate profile of Metro users, interviewers asked up to fifty questions and sub-questions to passengers, often during busy rush hours.
“Protel knows how to interview Metro passengers – they’ve done the work before,” explained Sara. “They are familiar with the methodology used to make the interview flow, the different steps that flow from previous answers.
“They also have a diverse interviewing team- it’s multi-cultural and includes young people and that is really important to us. If we only got middle-aged, white people answering our survey, that would not be representative of our population or passengers.
“It can be quite difficult to get young people to stop for a survey yet quite a lot of public transport users are young people, students for example.”
James Latham, operations director of Protel, adds: “Sometimes nothing beats ‘catching the moment’ by interviewing people on the spot. The Metro user survey is a prime example – how else would you get a true cross-section of passengers other than by finding them on the Metro platforms about to make a journey?
TfWM put the project out to tender because it wanted to ensure the interviews were carried out by an agency that had the expertise to deliver quality results on complex surveys. Protel Fieldwork has had a framework agreement with TfWM for nine years.