In order to conduct a thorough review of train travel it is important to first place my own work within the wider context of the existing knowledge in relation to this topic. By looking at studies which have already been conducted it is possible to observe questions which remain unanswered in this field and to look critically at existing literature in order to give my personal study a greater sense of purpose and to ensure that it makes significant contribution to the field.
Social Construct of Train Travel
A particular area of study relating to train travel which seems interesting to me is that which is pointed out by Watts (2008). In her paper she examines the social, imaginary and material work involved in making a journey by rail. Following ethnographic research consisting of quotations and photographs the author argues that rail passengers are spatially distributed when they make a journey by train.
In her analysis she points out that a great deal of research has been conducted into the way in which time and space are constructed in society, however few researchers have conducted a specific analysis of the items and people involved in this creation. As a result this is an area I am keen to investigate as the way in which time and space is created is an area which invites more specific investigation and simultaneously this topic in relation to train travel has had little academic attention. Therefore by investigating this topic I feel I would be able to fill a gap in existing research.
A further article which builds on this notion of the social construct of travelling by rail is that of Bissell (2008). In his study he looks at “some of the fluid relationships between everyday visuality, materiality and mobility through practices of contemporary railway travel in Britain” (1) The article looks primarily at the visual issues in train travel including the interior of the carriage and the landscape viewed through the window in relation to how these affect the perceptions of time, space and location throughout the journey.
Such a take on train travel is something which I am very interested in and by using the conclusions made in this paper I would be able to add to the cannon of debate on this topic to contrast the findings of this study with those from an American perspective, to broaden this debate into a multi cultural arena where it may be the case that a vastly different social construct is created through train travel. This notion is extremely interesting to me and is one which, as it is yet to be developed from a transnational context, would therefore allow me to add to the academic body of knowledge on this topic.
Train Travel for Business
Along with the social construct of train travel another area which much literature has been conducted into is train travel in relation to alleviating problems for businesses. As train travel is often undertaken by business professionals who may need to get from two areas which are relatively far apart and are both subject to high levels of street congestion the degree to which train travel is an effective way for businesses to get to different locations for meetings or negotiations I feel therefore is an important one.
One paper which has done this in relation to the relative effectiveness of train travel versus air or road travel for businesses is that of Bhat (1995). In his paper Bhat deploys an extremely qualitative and thorough evaluation of what he terms the ‘independence of irrelevant alternatives’ (IIA) in order for him to be able to come to the conclusion that different approaches to this topic elicited a different set of results.
As this paper had a heavy weighting on the effectiveness of specific models in investigating this topic I feel that one way in which it can be improved is to select an approach or a model from the outset, and then stick with this throughout in order for the conclusion to be more orientated around the travel mode as opposed to the model itself. Nonetheless this paper does point out to me that the heteroscedastic model is superior to both the multinomial logit and nested logic models in the quality of results it is able to generate and therefore it will be worth me bearing this in mind when I come to conduct my own research.
Another paper on a similar topic to this explores the relationship between the timing of your journey and the choice of which transportation mode you take. Conducted by Nurul Habib et al. (2009) this paper conducts a correlational analysis of these two decisions and comes to the conclusion that unobserved factors contributed to both the decision of which time to undertake your journey and which transport mode to take.
Something I found particularly helpful about this paper was that it pointed out the tendency for congested peak travel periods to expand which is a phenomenon known as ‘peak spreading’. As this paper provides empirical evidence for this notion is therefore justifies further investigation owing to the importance of travel between cities in today’s society. Similarly, as this paper utilises a multinomial logit model, a discrete-continuous econometric model and a continuous time hazard model the issues relating to the effectiveness of these models has been highlighted to me as an area I will need to conduct a further amount of research in to in order to ensure that the method I ultimately select is effective in generating reliable results.
Along with this issue of which model to apply to my research a study by Kroes and Sheldon (1988) point out another issue I should be aware of when conducting research into train travel. In their article they conduct a review of the stated preference method in the transport sector by another of other academics and assess the value of using this method in comparison to other similar methods to assessing why people have selected the particular mode of transport.
As this article covers a range of other train transport related studies it therefore is useful in assessing the literature in this field as a whole as it has a rather broad scope. By looking at the individual studies and the successful and unsuccessful elements of them I am therefore able to select a method which suits my particular study most aptly and as a result conduct a thorough and exhaustive investigation into my chosen area of train travel.
Key names in the field of rail travel include Laura Watts and David Bissell. Something which they have both written about is the notion of travel time in relation to passenger experience. In a study by Watts and Urry (2008) the authors attempt to provide evidence to dispel the myth that time spent travelling is wasted and dead. In order to encourage funding into travel projects the authors propose that rather that attempting to minimise travel time, by linking the notion of travelling with activities and fantasies they therefore suggest that the perception that travel time is wasted is therefore incorrect.
Through looking at activities such as engaging with other passengers, accessing wireless networks, views out the window and using items you have packed in your bag they therefore provide evidence which ultimately represent travel time as a useful being of time where practical and fantasy activities can be indulged, thus encouraging investment into travel projects and infrastructures. I find this research particularly useful as it has called for a revaluation of previously taken for granted attitudes towards travelling by train.
By looking at the topic more broadly and dispelling common misconceptions the authors are able to create an article which both covers brand new ground and gives attention to an under investigated issue. The theoretical approach they establish therefore is something I wish to build upon in my own study as the issue is so recent it therefore is yet to have any support or criticism surrounding it.
A further study by Bissell also investigates this topic however from a different perspective. Bissell (2010) looks at the notion of community and atmosphere within a train carriage. He notes something which I find interesting, that there is a certain atmosphere within a train carriage which has a powerful effect on the traveller in terms of a reticent passivity which contradicts a set of forces which work when travelling by train which prime an individual to act.
As far as I am aware this societal approach to the atmosphere on a train carriage has only been conducted in relation to psychology and obedience before and therefore it is very interesting that Bissell has looked at it within the field of transport. Whilst I feel that this study is extremely relevant and is something a great number of people may be able to relate to some criticism I have is that the notion he is describing is extremely intangible and whilst he does provide extensive primary research as evidence the atmosphere is difficult to pin and down and evaluate scientifically.
Another study on this topic is that of Ole (2009). This study looks at the idea of mobility in urban areas. The author describes the tendency for modern cities to be represented not just by their static venues but also by their transit spaces and argues that there should be a re configuration of the way in which identities of place are conceptualised and that transit spaces ought to become a location for meaningful interaction and pleasure. As with the Watt and Urry article this paper calls for a revaluation of the attitudes towards train travel and therefore provides a useful framework which forms a base upon which it would be possible to build upon and expand in my own study.
Throughout my literature study I have been able to identify the key theorists in the field of train travel and highlight some potent and relevant issues in this area of study. By looking critically at research which has already been conducted I am now able to ensure that my own study brings new ideas into academic discourse and that my investigation does not cover ground already subject to analysis. The gaps I have noted and other observations made throughout the body of my text therefore now place me in an ideal position to be able to come to a conclusion based on relevant research which will be will informed and critical in its scope.
Bissell, David. “Visualising everyday geographies: practices of vision through travel-time” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 34 (2008) 42- 60
Bissell David. “Passenger mobilities: affective atmospheres and the sociality of public transport.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28 (2010) 270- 89
Bhat, Chandra. “A heteroscedastic extreme value model of intercity travel mode choice.” Transportation Research Part B: Methodological 29 (1995) 471- 83
Kroes, Eric P. and Sheldon, Robert J., “Stated Preference Methods: An Introduction.” Journal of Transport Economics and Policy 22 (1988), 11- 25
Nurul Habib, Khandker, Day, Nicholas, and Miller, Eric. “An investigation of commuting trip timing and mode choice in the Greater Toronto Area: Application of a joint discrete-continuous model.” Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 43 (2009) 639- 53
Ole, Jensen B. “Flows of Meaning, Cultures of Movements – Urban Mobility as Meaningful Everyday Life Practice.” Mobilities 4 (2009) 139-58
Watts, Laura. “The art and craft of train travel.” Social and Cultural Geography 9 (2008): 711- 26
Watts Laura and Urry John. “Moving methods, travelling times.” Environment and Planning