The Event: Rugby World Cup 2015 (RWC) was the 8th Rugby World Cup and was hosted by England from 18th September – 31st October where 20 nations battled to claim the Webb Ellis Cup.

My Role: One of seven City Transport Managers looking after Leeds and Newcastle. My job was to collaborate closely with both cities, knowing that Rugby World Cup would have a major effect on their operations. We needed to put a bespoke plan in place to handle it and deliver the best possible customer and client experience.

The Challenge:

  • Both Leeds and Newcastle, including Elland Road and St. James’ Park stadiums were well used to hosting sporting events yet this event was different and required substantial planning
  • Limited transport capacity from main arterial routes in and around both cities
  • Spectators were coming from all over the world and would be unfamiliar with cities and stadiums
  • Worldwide media attention on the cities when matches were on
    • Pressure to get the spectator transport operation right, first time
    • Media compounds on site taking up previous parking spaces
  • Sponsor activations and hospitality suites would infringe on accessibility
  • Specific client transport services needed to be put in place
    • Police piloted service for team coaches tracked by city control
    • Chauffeur service for VIPs
    • Shuttle service for media
  • Communication with spectators before and on match day
  • Communicate with residents and businesses about the event so they can make alternative arrangements

What I did:

I travelled to Leeds and Newcastle every week from January 2015 until the tournament in September. We had monthly City Steering Group meetings with every city, of which Transport had its own subgroup. Here, representatives from local council, England 2015, stadium management, Highways England, Network Rail, Police, British Transport Police, bus operating companies, light rail, TOCs (Train Operating Companies such as Northern Rail, Virgin Trains East Coast, Cross Country, Transpennine), ambulance and fire services gathered to work on the plans we wanted to put in place for the tournament.

I oversaw the identification of land requirements, layout, design and operational plans for all vehicle staging, parking and (un)loading areas including developing an internal traffic and signage plan for the venues.

As part of the wider Transport team, we held monthly National Transport Coordination Groups, where stakeholders from every host city gathered to update each other on progress, highlight issues and work together to resolve issues that affected multiple cities.

On match day, I was based at the stadium, working with my team to deliver the client transport service as well as communicating with event control on the status of spectator transport. We had a secure communication group with leads from England 2015, Highways Agency, Network Rail, TOCs (Train Operating Companies), Local Authority, and Light Rail and Bus providers to update on how operations were working. This kept us updated in real time if any transport services became compromised or congested, allowing us to respond accordingly.

The Spectator Journey

In order to improve the spectator journey, we launched a journey planner app, designed by our consultancy company, Steer Davies Gleave. This app was unique in that;

  • We could communicate with spectators in real time to alert of congestion and influence their decision making, such as; recommending to arrive early and visit the fan zone
  • We could load the app with chartered coach, train services and park and ride locations
  • We could, for example, encourage spectators to use an event specific park and ride service instead of parking in the city centre

Our Travel Demand Management (TDM) team, In The Round Communications, worked closely with the City Transport Managers, ticketing and marketing department to develop a robust campaign to inform residents and members of the public that the tournament was coming to their city, allowing them to make informed travel decisions and reducing background pressure on the transport network on match days.

You can read my post about my experience at working at RWC (anecdotes included) here.