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EWR route map

Insights to Fuel East West Rail’s Customer Strategy

East West Railway Company is responsible for planning and building the new railway being created to provide an east/west rail connection between Oxford and Cambridge. Common, in partnership with Open Inclusion, was East West Railway Company's primary research partner between August 2021 and May 2023.

EWR route map


Framing Opportunity

Generating Ideas

Build & Test


August 2021 - May 2023

Established by the Department for Transport in 2018, East West Railway Company (EWR Co) was created to oversee the plans being developed for a new railway between Oxford and Cambridge. Their vision is to provide easy everyday journeys, bringing people and places together. They are passionate about delivering a new benchmark of customer experience in the rail industry. Inclusive research and co-design will be integral to how they move forward with their plans, using it to champion customers and communities, to build empathy and grow knowledge, to fuel the design of the end to end journey experience.

Common, in partnership with Open Inclusion, became the primary research partner for EWR Co in August 2021, at the outset of their research programme. We took on the challenge with the team at EWR Co, their service delivery partners, and customers, putting the following principles at the heart of our approach:

  • Inclusivity at every step - we sought to amplify the experiences, needs and ideas of those excluded or underserved by rail and who experience marginalisation in the sector. Our approach is intersectional, encompassing characteristics such as disability, sexuality, ethnicity, gender identity, low income, temporary access needs, families / children, older people and religion/faith.
  • Design and behavioural approaches - using human centred design approaches that focus on user needs and journeys and behavioural science that helps explore less top of mind, but powerful influences on choices and behaviours.
  • Insights that inspire change - We worked closely with EWR Co and their teams to ensure that the customer perspective and needs would be a powerful force for change in the business - challenging people to rethink the default positions in rail.
  • Rail and transport experts - our team’s knowledge of the rail sector helped us design user-centred projects that supported the business needs across every aspect of the end to end customer journey

To date we have completed eight research projects for EWR Co, applying this inclusive and step-change focussed approach to the following challenges:

  1. Identifying the customer needs and opportunities that relate directly to accessibility and inclusion across the end to end journey
  2. Exploring customer needs from trains, stations and their journey to the station, to encourage active travel to get to and from the station
  3. Understanding customer information needs along the end to end customer journey
  4. Discovering customer relationship needs with EWR Co through exploration of customer experiences within rail and beyond rail
  5. Understanding what motorised transport customers need from their journeys to and from the station
  6. Understanding customer needs, preferences and priorities to help inform the EWR Co train carriage design
  7. Understanding what customers and colleagues need from uniforms and the cultural context that sits behind this
  8. Working to understand the unique community needs for connections for different cities, towns and villages along the line

All projects utilised a multi-method research approach to allow us to explore the challenges from multiple perspectives, using a combination of three or four methods from the following: accompanied journeys, desk research, diary studies, ethnographies, focus groups, interviews, online forums, social media analysis, surveys or workshops. We design our research methods and participant groups to include pan-disability respondents and other excluded or underserved groups, as well as non-rail users where appropriate.

We have loved working with EWR Co on their bold vision and particularly valued the close relationship we had with Open to ensure that disabled passengers' voices were amplified on every design challenge.

Interested in finding how to take a more inclusive approach to rail or other service challenges? Get in touch at

“Common Collective are fantastic to work with. The team are knowledgeable, innovative and dynamic. Each research project was approached collaboratively and creatively, providing actionable insight that has been truly invaluable to the business” Sara Kemp, Customer Strategy Executive.

People: Sam Saint-Warrens, Katherine Jennings, Florence Nolan, Sharon Allen, Dr. Rebecca Bendayan, Dr. Avri Bilovich

Disciplines: Behavioural science, qualitative research, inclusive multi-method research, design research, community engagement, statistical analysis

Excited to work with us?