The Rail Disruption Game


Rail disruptions are inevitable, but bad service from rail operators shouldn't be.

Aston Business School has been working closely with Chiltern Railways to investigate how disruptions are managed and use this understanding to develop innovative solutions to prevent negative customer experiences.

The initial research resulted in a number of recommendations to help improve customers’ journeys in times of disruption. To make sure these improvements could be realised, Chiltern Railways and Aston University came together to develop a learning solution that would inspire, motivate, and empower staff to 'go the extra mile' and provide exceptional customer service.

The game

The team worked with Focus Games Ltd. on a gamified approach to learning, giving staff the opportunity to practise dealing with real world disruptive scenarios in a risk-free environment. During game play, participants are faced with scenarios that commonly occur during rail disruptions and they work together as a team to resolve the problem. The aim is to work together in a time pressured situation as information updates come in and reach a positive conclusion for the customer and to resume normal service.

After each round, a facilitator reflects on the task and how the team managed it, giving an opportunity to learn about different approaches and how impactful their solution was. As the game goes on, the challenges get more complex, covering a variety of scenarios that can occur during a disruption. By the end fo the game, participants are able to make suggestions on how the learnings can be applied directly to their roles to improve customer experience and company practices.

Rail disruption game

The impact

Since the introduction of the game as a staff development tool, it has had a direct impact on the procedure of Chiltern Railways. Staff have been given the opportunity to raise any concerns they have and clarify processes. 

It's interesting to hear other people's views."

I never thought I'd enjoy playing a game so much!"
We feel like we have achieved something."

It's good to know that it's possible to have different solutions."


What's next?

We are already focusing on ways that the game can be developed further. This includes:

  • Using the game within other companies operating under the Arriva Group.
  • Creating new incident scenarios.
  • Creating various levels of questions for different purposes, such as inductions or advanced training.
  • Developing more multimedia content.
  • Creating a "make-your-own" scenario capability.
  • Online support for new materials and digital content.

Get in touch

If you think we can help your organisation, or you want to find out more information, get in touch:

Professor Ben Clegg, Professor of Operations Management