Every opinion counts! But how can Dutch Rail (NS) accommodate to the wishes of a wide range of train travellers when creating the perfect match between bike use and public transport? Master student Civil Engineering Simone Hoskam was happy to tackle this real-life transportation challenge. In the end she presented Dutch rail company NS with some straightforward recommendations to make the relationship between bike and train an even happier one.
What made you decide to become a part of this project?
The ways people get from A to B was something that interested me throughout my Master and that meant I studied lots of different subjects. This did made choosing a final project a bit complicated, so I decided to talk to a professor whose lectures I had always found particularly interesting. He steered me towards public transport and it wasn’t long before I arranged an interview with NS. The bike-public transport project appealed to me most, because here I could look at a concrete problem, making the research more practical. I also wanted to do a project for a company. Covid-19 nearly scuppered my plans but fortunately NS gave me the go-ahead in the end.
What was your role in the project?
Together with NS, I looked at the willingness of people who use station bike parks to pay for this service. In order to get a better understanding of what users might do or like, I analysed their experiences based on the annual Dutch Rail satisfaction survey. I then put together a survey of my own which included elements which users had said were important to them. Respondents were presented with three scenarios and asked to choose the one they liked best. I then put their responses into a computer model I created and studied the outcomes to come up with a number of conclusions.
How did the bachelor programme prepare you for your graduation project?
The bachelor programme includes a course about transport and planning, a subject which looks at how to put people’s travel choices into a transport network model, which is basically what I did for the different scenarios in my project. I also used Python to create a model to analyse the responses to the survey, and that is something you learn in the second year. The basic mathematics course also helped me a lot.
Which parts of your master programme were particularly useful during the research?
I opted for the Transport & Planning track, which, among other things, gave me a deeper understanding of train line passenger allocation. I also learned about the design of our public transport network, what the pros and cons of the system are, and which ways are available to get to the trains. We also looked at how each traveller’s preference is based on different elements and how to analyse those on the computer.
What was your biggest challenge?
The length of the project was my biggest challenge. I like change and variety in everything I do. Work on the project was a full-time job for a good 7 or 8 months, so yes, that was challenging. In the end it wasn’t so bad because I could split things up into manageable segments. And the meetings with colleagues, coaches and fellow students also provided the necessary variety. What motivated me most, was the fact that I was working on a real problem. Every time I talked about the project I found that people were really interested, and how small changes in what you can offer travellers can influence their opinion in a big way. So I’m not doing this project for just a company, but for everybody.
What did you enjoy most about the project?
The more the project progressed the more I realised that it could actually make a difference. I was contributing something to the company. I really liked that and it gave me a tremendous boost during my research. To see that my findings are welcomed by the company and will be used is a great bonus.
How is Dutch Rail going to use your findings?
Dutch Rail will be revisiting their policy with regard to bike parks. They will be looking at where customer service can be improved, for instance, and at what they find important.
What are your plans for the future?
My coaches and I will be writing a paper about the choices made by people who use bike parks, based on my findings. I will also be looking for a job as an advisor in the area of mobility or public transport, with a particular focus on accessibility.