Friday 14 August 2020

Mind the wait? Train company aims to improve ‘waiting’ experience

Image of NS double decker Dutch train sitting in station


A mobile laboratory at Amsterdam Centraal station this week will measure the effects of waiting on travellers, in order to improve travel experience.

The NS StationsLab, run by consultant Mark van Hagen, will use EEG brain scans and blood pressure measurements to see how loitering at the station positively or negatively affects NS customers.

‘People hate waiting,’ Van Hagen told NRC on Thursday. He said the NS train company could either run more trains or make the wait a better experience ‘by adding things to the environment or by taking them away.’

Pianos, for instance, have been a success: people play them, rather than breaking them, and others tend to listen. ‘This inspires positive feelings and makes people feel as though they have waited less,’ he reportedly said.

The Netherlands has more than 400 stations, one million daily customers, and a train delay of at least five minutes in 8.7% of cases.

Van Hagen, whose university thesis was on improving waiting times at stations, said that people experience time differently from the strict clock measurement. Busy travellers, he explained, respond well to a calm environment and cool colours, while leisure riders like warmth and things to do.

But, he added, things can get too comfortable: a children’s toilet at Leiden Centraal station decorated beautifully with fishes and butterflies, he said, was ‘nice, but made people spend twice as long in the loo.’

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