ProductionProduction: Service implementation and service quality

The operational or provision level  is characterised by the implementation of the concepts (timetable, vehicle design etc.) developed before. In contrast to other utilities such as energy or water, public transport is not available continuously and ubiquitously. Instead, it is operated based on a pre-defined schedule. Hence users need to reconcile their travel needs with the service on offer which is defined mainly by the timetable, accessibility of infrastructure and vehicles and other regulations or conditions. Consequently, passengers request services to operate as planned, published and advertised in order to be able to plan their movements reliably. This requires a high level of quality.
First, the quality of service that can be achieved depends on adequate operating conditions and hence on political decisions. Second, the level of information, its detail and provision directly affect the accuracy with which passengers can plan their trips and the level of quality they expect.
The partly implemented introduction of competitive elements has led to a "boom" of discussions on quality in public transport. Transport operators mainly see quality standards as a means to distinguish themselves from their competitors. On the other hand, public (tendering) authorities consider them part of the necessary definition of the contract content which includes the possibility of penalty payments if standards are not met.

Instruments

Possibilities for users to influence services at this stage are quite naturally limited, because reliability for other customers could be negatively affected. However, several options are available to involve passengers in monitoring and maintaining the quality provided. Monitoring refers to the surveying and registration of the quality achieved, while maintaining additionally gives them the opportunity of an active contribution. Again, both concepts also overlap.

Selection of quality parameters

Useful parameters have to be selected from the wide range of possible indicators. Industry standards set up for public transport so far provide a framework, but no binding selection. Hence an involvement of user (organisations) in this task makes sense and is possible, but not guaranteed.

Quality from the customers' view

The quality of transport services can only in part be measured quantitatively (such as punctuality, capacity) and registered through central control systems. Many others require observation on-site. Examples are cleanliness, friendliness of staff and availability of information. As the users' impression in the end decides on the success of the service, it seems obvious to use their perception as a basis for such an assessment.

Monitoring of quality through consumer organisations

Another approach consists in quality surveying by user and consumer organisations themselves. Unlike data collected by public bodies, their results do not oblige the authorities or operators to react to them, but such data can still be used "politically" to press for a better quality of service

Customer feedback

Even outside of surveys, which cannot be conducted continuously, the passengers' impressions and observations has a potential to detect "quality black spots" and other problems. On the one hand, operators can tap this resource by facilitating and stimulating comments and complaints (see "practical level"). On the other hand, interested customers can be recruited as voluntary "quality scouts" who report problems directly, which they for example observe at their home station.

Participation in contract negotiations

Ideally, the passengers' position is safeguarded not only in the selection of quality parameters, but also in the targets set for each of them. This is normally done as part of the contract negotiations between operators and public authorities. Hence the involvement of user representatives in these procedures, at least for the non-financial parts, is desirable.