Improving communication during disruption

Managing rail service disruptions effectively and minimising the negative effects for passengers is a top priority for any train operating company; key to this effectiveness is how information gets used and communicated by frontline staff.

Chiltern Railways has worked with the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), Aston University and Focus Games Ltd to develop a unique educational game to help staff become more competent in managing information during rail service disruptions. The Rail Disruption Game brings frontline staff together and recreates a typical disruption event and challenges players to respond to a series customer queries. The game is a unique blend of traditional board game and online game using a tablet device to deliver information and act as a ‘digital facilitator’.


Euroma2017 - Our paper was Highly Commended for Innovative Teaching.





Chiltern Railways and Aston University worked together to investigate the systemic management of disruptive incidents with the aim of developing practical innovations that would improve the management of disruptive situations, improve the provision of information, and deliver a superior customer experience. This initial research resulted in Chiltern Railways and Aston University working in collaboration with the RSSB and Focus Games Ltd to develop a learning solution that would inspire, motivate, and empower staff to “go the extra mile” and provide exceptional customer service.

The team worked together for 12 months to design a game-based learning approach to allow staff to practice real world disruptive scenarios in a risk-free environment. This offers players the opportunity to experiment with different situations; share best practice, identify areas of concern, and ultimately formulate innovations in practice that will improve customers’ experience when using the network.



The game is designed for between 6 and 8 players working together as a single team and a typical session will last for 4 hours. During the game players are presented with realistic scenarios and common interactions with customers that occur during disruptions. The players work together as a team to identify the best way to resolve customers’ problems. They are provided with realistic information and updates on the incident and are challenged, under time pressure, to provide the best possible customer service in the situation, while also taking into consideration how they could best work together with colleagues to return to normal service as quickly as possible.

After each round of the game the players are guided, by a facilitator, to reflect on the service that was provided to customers and how it could have been done differently. As the game progresses the challenges get more difficult, just like the real world. When the players have successfully completed the game they are given time to reflect on the experience and then suggest ways in which the management of disruption and day-to-day operations can be improved, empowering them to make a difference to their roles and to company practices.



The game has been enthusiastically received by players who consistently state that the Rail Disruption Game allows them to gain a better understanding of customer and staff needs during disruptions, their own roles, and gain an understanding of the wider network issues.

The Rail Disruption Game has contributed to the improvement of Chiltern Railways practices and allowed staff member to raise their concerns and clarify processes and share good practices.

In addition to the direct benefits to employees from ‘experiencing’ disruption in a safe environment the approach also delivers a number of improvement suggestions to implement in practice, to date 212 suggestions have been collated from 8 workshops, which will benefit Chiltern and Arriva.


“I didn’t know what to expect but I really enjoyed it”

“We worked really well as a team and it’s good to feel we did our best”

“You learn so much from each other’s experiences”

“It makes you feel far more confident”

“I never thought I’d have enjoyed playing a ‘game’ so much”

“I think it is a really useful tool”


Aston University - Professor Ben Clegg

Chiltern Railways - Andy Poole

Focus Games Ltd – Melvin Bell

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