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Transport for West Midlands Metro User Survey (PAPI)

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Transport for West Midlands wanted to evaluate the impact of extending the Midland Metro tram line from Snow Hill into the heart of the city to Grand Central rail station. In particular, it wanted to find out if new passengers were being attracted to the Metro.

TfWM, as the public body responsible for transport infrastructure and the co-ordination of public transport in the West Midlands, delivered the line extension and it is due in early 2018 to take over the operational day-to-day running of Midland Metro services.

The challenge

TfWM needed to reach a representative cross-section of verified Metro users. The only way to achieve a balanced field was to go out and find them at Metro stops, applying a PAPI methodology. Nearly half of passengers use either cash (24 per cent), credit or debit card (5 per cent) or a concessionary pass (18 per cent) with no prospect of TfWM tracing them. The rest use seasons tickets or SWIFT/Pay as You Go cards, an electronic method of payment similar to London’s Oyster Card.

Trams arrive every six minutes during peak times, so skilled interviewers were necessary, ones who could quickly strike up a rapport with interviewees and persuade them to answer fully. Depending upon their answers, up to 50 questions could be posed.

As commuters to work and education make up 62 per cent of Metro passengers, interviewers had to engage these busy people rather than relying on passengers who had more time on their hands. Peak, off-peak and Saturday journeys had to be sampled.

The solution

Protel Fieldwork completed 1700 interviews, visiting every single one of the 26 Midland Metro stops from Wolverhampton to Birmingham. Researchers were carefully selected for their empathy and ability to navigate a complex questionnaire. They were also selected to match the diversity of the target audience, which was important to TfWM.

Interviews were held from 7am to 1pm on weekdays and from 9am to 3pm on Saturdays. A contingency was built into the contract to ensure results were gathered in time, in case inclement weather or other unexpected difficulties in reaching the target numbers arose.

Results were entered straightaway into laptop devices, so that TfWM had access to the data as soon as possible.

Protel Fieldwork went the ‘extra mile’ . . . researchers even followed passengers onto the trams to complete questionnaires when appropriate.

The result

Protel Fieldwork delivered the data of a high standard, on time and within budget. Quality checks were carried out by back-checking a proportion of interviews, and by supervisors travelling to observe interviews.

TfWM received valuable insights from the data – the Metro had attracted new passengers, especially among commuters – that it can use as evidence to investment in the line, for example the £250 million farther extension to Broad Street and the Black Country.

Sara Harte, Principal Insight Analyst of TfWM, said: “You can have a feel for what is happening in your market but you cannot be certain until you do the research. Having good quality data is really important to us…”

“…Now that we have it, thanks to Protel Fieldwork, we can use it for marketing campaigns and building our case going forward. We have a good relationship with Protel Fieldwork. We trust them and we trust the data they provide.”