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Network Rail: A bridge to climb - Market testing research


Located in the growing visitor market of Edinburgh and the Lothians, which attract millions of visitors each year, the Forth Bridge is an impressive feat of engineering. Built 130 years ago, and with three towers which are over 100 meters high, the Forth Bridge is the world’s second longest cantilever railway bridge. A World Heritage Site since 2015, the Forth Bridge shares the same designation as sites like the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, the Statue of Liberty and the Tower of London.

Following Scottish Government approval of initial plans submitted by Network Rail to develop a new bridge walk attraction on the Forth Bridge, there was a need to undertake rigorous market research to inform the Full Business Case (FBC) for this exciting attraction.

Challenge: Evaluate assumptions and define the scope of the opportunity

STR was commissioned to undertake extensive research to capture critical intelligence for the FBC. Key insights and data were required to address and inform economic, commercial, and financial assumptions for the potential development. In particular, there was a need to collect data for economic analysis to inform an understanding of demand, willingness to pay, additional benefit to the Scottish economy and other variables of interest to assist in evaluating the popularity and viability of such a unique experience on one of the world’s most impressive structures.

Solution: Dual pronged quant and qual study

In collaboration with the client, Network Rail, it was agreed that both quantitative and qualitative data were required to validate assumptions and enable a deep understanding of the scope of opportunity. Moreover, to validate assumptions of demand among global travelers, there was a need to develop a robust multi-market approach.

To address these requirements, STR designed and implemented a powerful and effective multi-market quantitative and qualitative methodology.

  • An elaborate and comprehensive online survey was created which included assistive information and visual stimuli for respondents. The survey was sent to a customized set of target audiences, including Scottish residents as well as North American and Chinese travelers. The latter audience received a professionally translated survey to ensure robust data collection.
  • Following the quantitative study, an innovative qualitative research approach was undertaken using an online question board and forum tool – a highly effective method of gathering data quickly and cost-effectively. The iterative nature of the methodology, which allows for data collection over a one-week period, enabled participants from 11 countries the opportunity and convenience to provide thoughtful and meaningful feedback.

Results: Successful teamworking and sharing of insights and recommendations

STR delivered a debrief presentation to a selective audience within Network Rail which helped to ensure learnings were clearly understood and embedded. In addition, STR provided an attractive and well-structured final report which included actionable recommendations.

Outcomes from the research were extremely useful in developing and informing the business case for the attraction. Furthermore, STR established excellent relationships with all partners involved in the study which enabled an enriched understanding of consumer insights across the entire project team.

Client Testimonial

“STR provided high-quality research support for the development of the business case around the Forth Bridge Walk Experience. We needed to get actionable insights during a challenging time (with the world reeling from the impact of COVID and the knock-on impact that had on traditional ways of doing things). STR’s client focused “can do” approach, their attention to detail, creativity and subject matter expertise was instrumental in the delivery of actionable insights and the assessment of the viability of the attraction.”

Tolu Osekita 

Lead – Third Party Investment 

Network Rail Infrastructure Limited