• Vision
  • Digital Strategy
  • Service Design


Moving HS2 to a service design approach

High Speed Two (HS2) is the new high speed railway being built as the backbone of the national rail network. It will link London and Birmingham to Manchester, the East Midlands and Leeds. It is the first main line railway to be built in the UK since 1899.

HS2 grew rapidly throughout 2015, as it progressed through the House of Commons legislative process and began to prepare for construction. As part of a broader business transformation programme, HS2 needed to deliver information systems capabilities that would maximise organisational effectiveness.

HS2 was looking to achieve a step-change in its ability to design, deliver and operate high-quality IT solutions that were better aligned with the needs of the organisation and its users.



Understanding how and why people use technology

Rainmaker led a ten-week user research project to investigate how HS2 used technology and to provide the data to support decisions around organisational culture, ways of working and the design and delivery of services.

A design research methodology was employed which focused on user needs and building empathy between users – HS2 staff and partners – and designers – those with responsibility for creating and maintaining the IT systems.

Following a series of interviews and cultural probes with over 100 users from across the organisation, HS2 gained a wide understanding of high-level user needs, pain points and personas The engagements helped HS2 understand how and why people interacted with technology and they informed strategic decisions about technology design and procurement.

Rainmaker committed to skills transfer, delivering the whole project in close collaboration with the HS2 team and producing a toolkit for conducting effective user research in future.


“We have something that’s of far more use than just informing information service delivery.

It’s the first time the organisation has understood itself from the perspective of the people who work in it, and it will help inform a whole range of other work to develop the organisation in terms of capabilities, culture and ways of working.”


Jeremy Foot, Head of Information Management, HS2


Technology at the heart of the organisation

HS2 was left with the data to shape the design and delivery of digital information services across the organisation and drive their approach, thinking and future engagement.

HS2 gained a detailed understanding of its users’ pain points, needs and ideas to make things better.

As an added deliverable, intended to maximise knowledge transfer, the project team developed a user research tool kit, published on GitHub for the benefit of the wider user research community and now featured on the GDS website.

With Rainmaker’s support, HS2 was able to understand itself from the perspective of the people that worked in the organisation and develop a digital strategy which put technology at the heart of the organisation.