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Reimagining Gatelines for HS2 – My Design Sprint Experience

By Liam Henderson

Last week I joined a team of rail industry and passenger experience experts in London’s China Town to reimagine gatelines for HS2. I was very excited to be asked to take part in this design sprint. Through my Transporting Cities network visits, I know that ticket barriers (gatelines) are the cause of no end of confusion, frustration and irritation. I was always concerned that HS2 was going to race passengers to Birmingham at light speed then leave them to queue for 5 minutes at the ticket barrier. Thankfully, the HS2 team were adamant that this wouldn’t be the experience!

I started the sprint being allocated to a team and tasked with defining a problem statement for our given persona, Annalisa, a 22-year-old fashion student who likes to take her bike with her so that she can cycle around town. I was pleased I was on this team, as I too like to take my bike with me and had quite a lot to say about trying to manoeuvre a bike around the station!

I found the design sprint experience exhausting, surprisingly so, having to pinpoint what the actual pain-points were for Annalisa, and how to define them in a meaningful way. This was made all the more humbling when Annalisa turned out to be a real person, who dropped in on our team one afternoon! Many of our assumptions went straight out of the window. Annalisa’s priority was a seamless journey to the train. She didn’t want to look at her phone, she didn’t want to stop and fumble for her ticket and she didn’t want to plan her journey – she just wanted to get a train.

Appreciating this, our team developed a concept which was, in essence, to remove the gateline. Strip the station experience back so she could get onto the train without any interaction from HS2. We proposed that HS2 should trust the passenger to access the network, with the assumption that we, HS2, would accommodate her needs: if she wants to book in advance, she can, if she wants to pay-as-she-goes, she can, if she wants to stop and buy a ticket, she can. She should not have to navigate around HS2’s systems. Obviously, there’s a security, safety & crowd control overlay that would complement this transformation, but that’s our job as railway professionals, to enable this to happen.

HS2 will be a completely different system for the UK, a train every 3 minutes is more regular than most metro systems. If we want to realise the benefits of the investment, we need to make going to Birmingham feel like a quick Tube ride to Canary Wharf, not an expedition. By removing the faff, we can accommodate the passenger how they want to travel. Technology exists to give passengers some sort of chip or token and HS2 can then work out the billing later – if that’s what the passenger wants.

It’s startling how emotionally invested you get in your 2-day old idea – our team was very protective of Annalisa and her needs! When it came to pitching our concept to the group, I felt affinity with anyone who’s appeared on Dragons’ Den.

I, for one, was stunned that we won the sprint! I took my little cup home with pride, knowing I’d done my bit for passengers like Annalisa.

Reimagining Gatelines – just remove them.

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