The Role of Specificity and Apologies in Excuse Messages Following Train Delay

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail, ridership - perceptions, planning - signage/information, operations - reliability


trust repair, public transport, delay, excuse, apology


An important issue in public transport is punctuality. Because delays are often caused by external factors, an efficient way to mitigate passengers’ negative reactions is to point out these factors in an excuse. The current study investigated whether excuses following train delay can be optimized by making minor changes to their content. Specifically, we compared the effectiveness of specific and non-specific excuses. Furthermore, we investigated whether adding different types of an apology influenced the effectiveness of the excuse. The results indicated that specific excuses resulted in more forgiveness and a reduced intention to avoid public transport in the future. Further analyses showed that specific excuses were more acceptable and were therefore more successful at reducing perceived responsibility. The presence or absence of an apology did not influence excuse effectiveness. These findings suggest that minor adjustments to the communication strategy of public transport organizations can reduce passenger loss due to delays.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by the Journal of Public Transportation, copyright remains with them.