Citizens’ Rail toolkit  > Evaluate your successInvolving stakeholders in your projects

Involving stakeholders in your railway project

The following section gives you an overview about the framework in which stakeholder participation takes place in the context of railway projects.

This includes types and methods of stakeholder analysis, participation as well as evaluation. Other sections of the toolkit show you examples from the Citizens’ Rail project, so that you can easily adapt the information to your railway projects.

Why do it? - Why have participation in railway projects?

The answers to these questions can be derived from scientific literature as well as the results of an internal practitioner survey in the Citizens’ Rail project. More information can also be found in section How and when can stakeholders be involved in your railway project? (within the How to do it? section). For ‘good’ stakeholder participation you also have to consider their needs, not only yours: Participation can change the relation between (local) administration and policy on the one and citizens on the other side. On an abstract level, it can be distinguished between normative (democratic society, citizenship, equity) and pragmatic (quality of decisions, durability of decisions) benefits1. For example, the perspective towards the benefits of participation can be as follows:

Public participation goals Administration’s point of view Benefit Citizens’ point of view
Overall Public support for plans/projects, educate citizens, increase trust, mobilise citizens Boost public discourse and create a ‘participation culture’ Identification, engagement
Inform Inform the public Provide balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding the problem, alternatives, opportunities and/or solutions Receive information
Consult Obtain feedback Get public feedback on analysis, alternatives and/or decisions Give feedback
Involve Work directly with the public Work together throughout the process to ensure that public concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered Work directly with the administration
Collaborate Partner up with the public Collaborate in all aspects of the decision, including the development of alternatives and the identification of the preferred solution Partner up with the administration
Empower Give the public a role in decision-making Put final decision-making in the hands of the public Hold power

Perspectives towards the Benefits of Participation
Citizens’ Rail project team based on Warburton et al. 2005 (Ch. 4), TACSO 2011

What do Citizens’ Rail practitioners say?

An internal survey revealed the motivation for Citizens’ Rail partners for citizens’ participation as follows:

Figure 1: Motivation for Citizens’ Rail partners for citizens’ participation
Source: Internal Survey by Citizens’ Rail project team

Hear from one of the Citizens’ Rail project partners:

Typical railway projects with participation
A diversity of stakeholders are included in every railway project, ranging from public to private and local to even international level. Besides participation in ‘hard’ infrastructure projects, e.g. focusing on station and line implementation or improvement respectively, especially ‘soft’ community engagement offers big opportunities for people to get involved in railway projects. In the Citizens’ Rail project, we used the following project categories:

  • Community Stations
  • Community engagement
  • Station improvements
  • Improvements to lines
  • Information campaigns

Read more about the projects in the toolkit or on the main Citizens’ Rail website.

What is a stakeholder?

There is no clear definition for the expression stakeholder. In general it´s a person, group or organization which has legitimate concerns regarding the progress or results of a process or project. In particular the Citizens´ Rail project is about conducting regional rail projects, we define stakeholder – according to the Project Management Institute (PMI) as ‘an individual, group, or organization, who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a [rail (sig.)] project’2. To simplify you can also speak about interest groups and persons concerned or in a more positive sense about supporters, facilitators or co-operators.
Following the above mentioned definition every rail passenger is a stakeholder, because she/he can be affected by a rail project. From a practical point of view you maybe focus on the people and organizations that are actively involved and engaged in regional rail development, either continuously or in a specific project context.

Read more about stakeholders in the section How to do it?

What is participation?

Participation is a broad concept that describes the myriad of ways how the public expresses their opinions, concern and needs regarding the decision-making process in society. Participation describes and explains how communities interact with government and administration. In a narrower sense it refers to political activity (participatory democracy). Citizens´ participation can be stimulated ‘top-down’ through public administration and government and/or demanded ’bottom-up’ through the public.

If you would like to get in touch with participation, ask yourself:

  • What the benefits and motivation of participation are. Are you focused on a pragmatic project outcome or people’s empowerment as normative value?
  • How intensively you can involve stakeholders. Are you just informing or working in real partnership?
  • How relationships between stakeholders are manifested. Are you collaborating in networks or working hierarchically and contract-based?
  • How communication takes place and what the direction of the communication flow is. Is it one way or a real dialog?

Read more about the foundations of participation.

Read about how to do participation in the How to do it? section below.

What is evaluation?

The term ‘evaluation’ at first simply means to assess something. Nevertheless there are a lot of basic rules and standards that determine ‘good’ evaluation and distinguish it from ordinary or ‘everyday’ assessment. More details about what evaluation is and how it can be done in participatory railway projects can be found in the ‘evaluation’ section of the toolkit.

Railway projects, participation and evaluation- How do they relate to each other?

The figure below will help you to implement your railway project in a “Participatory Railway project cycle”. As every project, railway projects are often carried out in a project cycle, which covers several phases. We suggest, that in each phase participation (see “What is participation?” above) could take place, beginning from the creation of ideas and concepts, to the project preparation, the project implementation, the obligatory evaluation of the whole project itself and, finally, the publication and communication of the project results. Be also aware of the paradox of participation (indicated below by declining blue shading)! When participation is done in a certain project phase, evaluation of stakeholder participation comes in place. The results of stakeholder evaluation are then mirrored back in the phase, where participation took place, before the next project phase starts, and so on.

You will find more details (e.g. definitions, How-To’s) in other sections of the Citizens’ Rail practitioners toolkit. Just browse the relevant sections.

Participatory Railway project cycle (‘The Citizens’ Rail Flower Model’)
Source: Citizens’ Rail project team

How to do it? Stakeholder Analysis and Participation

How to identify stakeholders? – Stakeholder Analysis

In your railway project, Stakeholder Analysis is an important intermediate step, which connects your project context to your project actions (see the Flower Model above), including stakeholder participation. Transferring insights from 7 to railway projects, Stakeholder Analysis is a process that allows you to:

(i) define aspects of the railway system affected by a decision or action
(ii) identify individuals and groups who are affected by or can affect those parts of the system
(iii) prioritise these individuals and groups for involvement, e.g. in the decision-making process

Depending on your needs, you can conduct a rather simple or more sophisticated stakeholder analysis 7, 8. In the figure below you can see three possible steps and several analytical methods that can be used for stakeholder analysis in your railway project. While step one and two are rather obligatory, step three can be seen as an additional option, if information about the relations between stakeholders themselves is needed.

Most simply and at first you can brainstorm and draw up a list for identifying relevant stakeholders. Then you can analyse the views of actors and/or the nature of actors’ involvement in your project. A possible result of such a simple analysis could be that you get an overview (e.g. a table) about which stakeholders have positive, negative or neutral attitudes towards or influences on your project (see also Resources). In an in-depth analysis you can further investigate stakeholders’ views on visions, problems or solutions. The section How and when can stakeholders be involved in your railway project? (in the How to do it? section below) gives you further examples of possible results.

An excellent overview about steps and related analytical methods that can be used for stakeholder analysis in your railway project is given here (see also 9 for further actor analysis methods).

Steps and methods for stakeholder analysis
Source: Citizens’ Rail project team based on Reed et al. 2009, p. 1936-1937

Typical stakeholders that were involved in Citizens’ Rail are (in alphabetical order):

  • Associations for public transport or similar (regional) organizations (e.g. Community Rail Partnerships; ACoRP)
  • Local and regional businesses
  • Local and regional government, politicians and authorities (especially transport bodies)
  • People with disabilities
  • Rail ambassadors
  • Rail infrastructure Company/ Infrastructure providers
  • Rail operating company/ Train operators
  • Rail regulation authority
  • Rail user groups and passenger associations / individual passengers
  • Schools
  • Students
  • Tourism bodies / Tourism sector
  • Volunteers / Volunteer Groups (e.g. Friends of the station groups)

See an example

The following stakeholders may also be relevant for your project:

  • Department for Transport
  • European Union (e.g. in the context of Interreg funding)
  • Rail unions
  • Residents
  • The health sector
  • Other community groups
  • Other stakeholders that you regard as important

How and when can stakeholders be involved in your railway project?
As already indicated in this section, most literature indicates that stakeholder participation is most effective, when it’s done as early as possible and throughout the project. Nevertheless, the forms and intensity of stakeholder participation may differ depending on the project phase and relevant stakeholder groups. Therefore, we suggest to adapt the following typology, which considers the roles of stakeholders, the intensity of involvement, as well as the timing of a project10. You can also use the information in this section as a blueprint for your stakeholder analysis, see above (see also Stakeholder Management).

Stakeholder Engagement cycle/ typology
Source: Citizens’ Rail project team based on Carney et al. 2009, p. 21

Based on this approach, stakeholder involvement in your railway projects could look like this:

Role in railway project Examples for railway stakeholders1 Description When to involve? Involvement (intensity, form etc.)
Initiators funders, local or regional government, train operating companies, rail infrastructure providers, rail user groups and other (community) groups Stakeholders involved in developing, driving or instigating a project ‘before’ phase Medium – by: identifying a particular need; help with, preparation, add relevant insights
Shapers policy makers, interest groups, academics Stakeholders who have a role in consolidating a project, supporting it or directing it at an early stage. Possibly profiting from project outcomes. ‘before’ (project design) and ‘during’ phase Medium to high – by: advocating, alignment, alterations to the project design
Informants potential future users/ involved target groups (e.g. passengers or non-users, residents) and many other stakeholders (e.g. academics, agencies, authorities, business, consultancy companies politicians, rail industry) stakeholders who directly inform a railway project (‘before’ and) ‘during’ phase Differing intensity – by: completing questionnaires; participating in interviews, focus groups or workshops; providing data
Central representatives of broader groups or organisations (e.g. politicians, railway organisations, user groups) focal Stakeholders who have an input throughout the project process; they may take on a multitude of roles, (see column 1) throughout the project Very high, multitude of roles; close to the project team – by: participation in advisory group or steering committee
Reviewers comparable to ‘informants’, but focus more on rail experts Stakeholders who have a role in reviewing the project, responding to it and shaping / contributing to aspects of the final output. shift ‘during’/ ‘after’ phase (close to completion) Medium to high – by: questionnaires, focus groups, interviews, workshops, panel of experts, site visits
Recipients comparable to ‘informants’, but even wider scope (e.g. general public) Stakeholders who may not have been directly involved with the project, but who probably have a specific interest in its outcomes. ‘after’ phase Medium – by: attending project launch or presentations, downloading reports (active inv.) or receiving information material (passive inv.)
Reflectors external stakeholders from rail industry, interest groups, research, government etc. These stakeholders reflect on the project outcomes and/or the process, providing feedback for development of the project, the methods and providing ideas for further projects. ‘after’ phase (and ‘before’ phase of past/ future projects) Medium to high – by: see Reviewers
In-directs non-involved target groups (e.g. passengers, non-users, residents) Ultimately affected, wider group of stakeholders; often not explicitly included in the project, but unknowingly or unconsciously contributing to or affected by it. throughout the project Low – indirect representation by politicians, interest groups etc.; at least continuous information should be provided directly

Roles and examples for stakeholders in railway projects
Source: Citizens’ Rail project team based on Carney et al. 2009, p. 22-25

1. These examples are meant to indicate which railway stakeholders are most likely to take over the associated roles (for a list see section “How to identify stakeholders? – Stakeholder Analysis”). In reality, stakeholders can play multiple roles in one or different projects and many unmentioned stakeholders could be important for your project.

After being clear about whom to involve and when, you may ask how to involve stakeholders in your railway project. Good overviews about definitions and typologies are given elsewhere [e.g. 1, 10]. Here we like to present a matrix, which combines targets and forms of stakeholder participation. Just click on the linked items to get examples from Citizens’ Rail or other sources.

  Rail project coordinator      
    Creates transparency Receives overview about opinions Receives proposals Uses collaboration
Stakeholder Can inform herself/himself Information measures

  • Print media
  • Mass Media
  • Events
  • Promotions
  • Websites
  • Blogs
  • Chats
  • Social Networks
  Can articulate herself/himself   Surveys


  Contributes to the dialogue   Forums


Work groups

Targets and forms of stakeholder participation
Source: Citizens’ Rail project team based on Beteiligungsportal Baden-Wuerttemberg, Participation & Sustainable Development in Europe and the Citizens’ Rail website

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