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Think Rail First

In autumn 2021, we worked in partnership with train operator LNER to encourage people to “Think Rail First” and chose train over flying or driving for UK trips.

Recent research has reinforced the evidence that taking the train is faster, cheaper and more reliable than plane or car for Edinburgh-London journeys, but that the majority of people underestimate these benefits. How do we change public perceptions and encourage more people to switch to the train?

We discussed the research findings with MSPs, local authorities, business and transport leaders, to get fresh insights on the best ways to change people’s views and promote rail. Suggestions included:

    • increasing the prestige of rail so it has the same status as flying
    • simplifying tickets and rolling out a national smart card
    • building on people’s emotional attachment to rail e.g. fond childhood memories and fun trips
    • changing people’s perceptions of price (the UK has the most expensive fares in Europe and the cheapest fares in Europe, but only one is the perception)
    • promoting the door-to-door convenience of rail journeys
    • marketing rail to people living in smaller towns and rural areas outside our big cities

“Think Rail First” succeeded in raising the profile of rail among MSPs and other stakeholders and gave us a platform to share our campaign priorities for rail. The feedback will help us to target our public transport campaign messages more effectively, and is invaluable for LNER in their work to promote rail as the best way to travel.

The MSPs who attended our rail discussions were:

Fiona Hyslop MSP (event Chair)
Sarah Boyack MSP
Finlay Carson MSP
Sharon Dowey MSP
Jackie Dunbar MSP
Rachael Hamilton MSP
Gordon Macdonald MSP
John Mason MSP
Graham Simpson MSP

Graham Simpson MSP

Finlay Carson MSP

Sarah Boyack MSP

Gordon Macdonald MSP







Rachael Hamilton MSP & Sharon Dowey MSP

Fiona Hyslop MSP


















Our Stakeholder event was attended by:

City of Edinburgh Council
Dundee City Council
Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce
International Union of Railways
Liam Kerr MSP
Network Rail
Transport for Edinburgh
Transport Scotland
University of Stirling

Warrick Dent (Director of Safety and Operations, LNER), John Doughty (Director of Engineering, LNER), Duncan Edmondson (Associate, Steer)

Kate McFerran (Director of Communications, LNER)