Proper stakeholder engagement can fast track change in the rail sector

Proper stakeholder engagement can fast track change in the rail sector

Our recent work with our clients West Midland Rail, Network Rail and Northern Rail has shown us that when it comes to stakeholder engagement in the rail sector – operators have a real challenge on their hands.

According to stats from Stagecoach, the UK rail industry employs more than 190,000 people, from train drivers and station staff to those responsible for managing and maintaining the network’s 20,000 miles of track. The UK rail network includes more than 2,500 stations and more than 40,000 bridges and tunnels. Every year, there are more than 1.3 billion passenger journeys, including nearly 270 million business trips.

As you can imagine, this is one sector where stakeholders are vast.

There are many groups to consider in including:

  1. Citizens and associations of Rail Users: The general public and railway users and groups representing them constitute the largest stakeholder group.
  2. Non- Governmental Organisations: NGOs that are not workers’ organisations and not representing railway users might have an interest in the development of the railway sector. This could include special interest organisations such as environmental organisations.
  3. Railway operating companies, Station Managers/ associations and Infrastructure managers/ associations: The railway operating companies and infrastructure companies
  4. Rail transport workers/ associations: Railway sector workers themselves
  5. Technology providers/ associations: Companies that specialise in technology systems appropriate to the changes
  6. Transport authorities and other National authorities: Member State national authorities and authorities at other levels e.g. regional or local that have some responsibility for the railway system will have a major interest in and influence on transport changes

From changes to timetables, new rail developments through to questions around the threats of terrorism in the lesser protected rail space, there are a range of projects that require stakeholder opinion.

For the rail sector to make changes, it is imperative that they are able to consult as widely as possible. The aim of the stakeholder consultation is to deliver a high quality and credible impact assessment, allowing all interested parties to provide feedback, to contribute suggestions and to provide specific data that they have available on the benefits and costs (either real or expected) of the forthcoming project.

This will ensure transparency and accountability.

Engagement of stakeholders has never been so key, but going about it the right way is crucial.

Stakeholder Identification & Mapping

This starts, of course, with the right mapping. In order to identify the most appropriate mix of consultation methods, it is key to identify the relevant stakeholder groups and the best way to consult them in order to ensure the reception of relevant input of the highest quality and of diverse point of views.  It is important to specifically target groups that run the risk of being excluded, and also to identify needs to consult stakeholders with in-depth knowledge on a specific topic. A certain balance and comprehensive coverage will be ensured.

This includes stakeholder groups who may be impacted by or could impact such an initiative, or are relevant for, or particularly interested in the project.

A public consultation and a targeted consultation via questionnaires sent can help to obtain general and specific qualitative and quantitative data to develop the project.

Managing  Stakeholder Data

However, one of the key principles behind any stakeholder engagement exercise should be the way you collect, store and display the powerful data insights that you bring back from any consultation or engagement exercises. Whilst questionnaires, consultation meetings and open discussions will all bring insights, pulling these all together into one cohesive view is a struggle for even the best rail operators and we have seen the processed hindered by outdated systems and archaic spreadsheet processes.

Engaging stakeholders for any project, regardless of size is an expensive, time consuming and potentially high-risk activity that opens the business up to the danger of not meeting deadlines, not communicating effectively and failing to meet necessary legislation.

The result of any business undertaking this process using spreadsheets and third-party systems to engage and manage subsequent data –  typically a convoluted mix of emails, word documents, spreadsheets and various web-based systems are all risk heavy.

The disadvantages of using spreadsheets to manage stakeholder engagement are multiple.

Using spreadsheets increases risk of data errors, duplication and mislaying information. A University study in corporate use of spreadsheets found that 94% of spreadsheets have errors and that on average there is an error in one out of every 20 cells within a spreadsheet

Because spreadsheets lack controls, it is very easy for stakeholders’ views and feedback to be altered, even deleted permanently. This sort of activity could easily go undetected and creates a window for fraudulent behaviour both from within the business and from outside forces.

Stakeholder engagement is not a static process; it is highly dynamic and evolves over time as requirements, perceptions and attitudes change. Spreadsheets, on the other hand, are very one dimensional and rigid.

As spreadsheets become more complex to keep up with changing demands, they, in turn, become harder to manage and more likely to breakdown. Time and money are wasted trying to keep the process afloat.

By relying on spreadsheets, word documents and various communication tools to meet data privacy regulations, it is virtually impossible to maintain this information and be compliant.

The issue is twofold – in the first instance, multiple copies of data may exist in the business which can be hard to control and update and secondly, to make updates and remain compliant, all of these versions need to be revised with the same information or else they will be out of sync. This represents an administrative burden.

The solution that our clients have chosen to avoid any issue is to use Tractivity, an all in one management system for Stakeholder Communication, Engagement and Reporting. Tractivity is extensively used by a whole range of organisations in the Energy, Utilities, Transport and NHS sectors to manage their stakeholder interactions.  Tractivity organises stakeholders, communication and reporting together for one central source for stakeholder management. Tractivity reports gather information from the entire project and summarise key activity whenever you need it. Tractivity also includes communication facilities such as newsletters, surveys and event management tools.

We would welcome a chance to show you how we have helped clients in the rail sector, and how we can also support you. Please reach out here.

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