Exploring late adopters of digital technology in the rail sector: Enhancing accessibility in the digital and built travel environments.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering


Efforts to improve the accessibility of rail services for all users have been ongoing in the industry and academia for many years. The British government and key industry organisations such as the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), Network Rail, and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) are keen to continue to improve the accessibility of services across the rail travel sector in support of the Department for Transport's Inclusive Transport Strategy. Whilst progress has been made towards improving the accessibility of the built environment over recent years; these projects have tended to focus on improving access to stations and trains through structural works as well as the implementation of various digital systems like real-time passenger prediction services and data-driven timetabling projects which have emerged via industry sponsored innovation competitions such as the RSSB Data Sandbox. By contrast, research projects that have sought to understand and improve digital technologies within the travel sector have largely been focused on the management and service provider facing systems. As a result, there are several avenues within the passenger experience that have received less attention in industry and academic research. For example, whilst there are several projects aimed at improving the efficiency and usability of rail sector digital systems, the benefits of using such systems are most often seen by the provider rather than directly by the passenger. Similarly, little consideration has been given to assessing how and why some passengers do (not) adopt technological innovations designed to assist and enhance their journey experience.

To address these gaps, this PhD project will adopt ideas and concepts from the areas of tourism, disability studies, human factors, and transport studies to explore how digital systems used (or not used) by passengers can be improved or adapted to better suit the needs of users with later technology adopting tendencies. Rogers' theory of the diffusion of innovation suggests that individuals within a social system do not adopt new ideas or products simultaneously, rather they adopt over time depending upon various personal characteristics. The focus of this PhD will be on the latter half of society which are later to adopt new ideas and technologies, namely late adopters and laggards. The overarching research question driving this project is: What are the barriers to rail travel for late technology adopting passengers and to what extent is this explained by the social privilege dimension of constraints negotiation theory and the diffusion of technology theory? The findings of this research will generate recommendations for the rail sector related to improving accessibility policies and industry standards to remove technological, psychological, or physical barriers in both the digital and built environment. This will contribute towards the overall objective of making the rail more appealing and accessible for all passengers.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S023305/1 30/09/2019 30/03/2028
2529775 Studentship EP/S023305/1 30/09/2020 29/09/2024 Charlotte Lenton