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June 2015 - Introduction from Customer Service Director Kathryn O'Brien

Dear Colleagues,

The last month has proved to be busy not just in the rail industry but for the UK as a whole.

In the recent General Election, it was clear that rail was high on the political agenda, particularly connectivity between major cities across the North of England.

The newly elected Conservative government has vowed to continue building towards a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ which will only be enabled through faster services and better connectivity between our great Northern cities.

Major steps towards building a better railway are being taken. The work currently taking place at Farnworth Tunnel on the Manchester to Bolton route is a good example of this. So far, work underway to reconstruct the Victorian tunnel is going well.

Although a difficult time for customers using the route, the work is a necessary step towards electrification of this busy line. A full update on Farnworth can be found in this issue of this newsletter.

A number of other significant events have also taken place across our network this month.

Together with our industry partners, the team here has spent months planning for the Three Queens event which took place in Liverpool last weekend. Hundreds of thousands of people visited the city over the weekend and the successful transport plans allowed them to safely travel to and from the event. 

A huge amount of planning and work is already underway for the Rugby World Cup, taking place in Manchester this October.

Significant planning went into responding to the recent industrial action planned by RMT and TSSA Union members working at Network Rail. We were delighted this action was suspended and customers were able to make their journeys as planned.

Looking forward, the business continues to focus on our customer proposition and since February 2015, 181 colleagues have attended and have passed our WorldHost accredited ‘Principles of Customer Service’ development programme.

The cleanliness of our services is a huge area of focus at present and we have recently undertaken an extensive review of this. As a result, we are now seeking to enhance our on board cleaning process and will be introducing additional in-transit cleaners on some services.

I hope you find this edition of E-exchange to be useful and encourage you to get in touch with any feedback or questions.

Regards,

Kathryn 
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May Timetable Change and Class 156 Introduction

Our most recent timetable change took place on 17 May 2015 and as part of this, we introduced six sub-hired Class 156 trains from Northern Rail.

These are currently running between Manchester Airport and Blackpool North with some also in operation to and from Barrow-in-Furness.

The services operating with Class 156 trains have performed well so far and at the time of writing, PPM on the Blackpool route remains at 95% despite the challenges of the ongoing Farnworth Tunnel work.

The trains have retained their Northern Rail branding although managed by colleagues from FTPE. However FTPE branded window labels can be found in each carriage providing further clarity on the service provider.

Unfortunately, we are unable to offer a First Class carriage or catering service on these trains and have written to all First Class Season Ticket Holders about this matter.

To prepare customers for the change, a targeted piece of customer communication took place focused around tailored manual announcements on services impacted by the changes, as well as at affected stations.
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Commemorating the 175th Anniversary of the Hull to Selby line

On the 1 July 2015, the railway line between Hull and Selby will be celebrating its 175th anniversary.

We are working with both the Selby Civic Society and Selby Rail User Group to mark this significant occasion and events are planned to take place at both Selby and Hull Station.

These are being arranged for stakeholder groups and also local school children who will be taught about the history of the railway in the Humber region.

We are also sponsoring the production of a special booklet detailing the history of the line, the Selby Swing Bridge and stations on the route.

The booklet will be shared with customers travelling on the route starting from the 1st July.
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Happy 15th anniversary First TransPenine Express. 
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Free Wifi Trial Goes Live at FTPE Stations

We are now offering a fast and unlimited Wifi service at seven of our stations following the announcement of a new partnership with O2. We have joined up with the leading broadband and communications giant to provide the service to customers across our network. 

Wifi will be available at selected stations with hopes the scheme will be rolled out across the whole network. The first major FTPE stations to receive this are; Huddersfield, Manchester Airport, Stalybridge and Selby with Dewsbury, Warrington Central and Middlesbrough set to follow shortly.

To celebrate the launch, on Monday 23 March, Huddersfield Station Waiting Room was transformed into a lounge-style sanctuary, providing customers with the opportunity to sit back, relax and surf the new O2 Wifi for free before their making their onward journey. Up cycled furniture was provided by the homeless charity, Emmaus.    

The event saw representatives from both FTPE and O2 Angels – the experts of O2 Wifi - offering information and advice to customers who could take advantage of the new comfy surroundings and free chocolate Wifi-topped cappuccinos. 

Access to the new O2 Wifi will be completely free and unlimited to all and six of the seven stations, will be utilising fast 100MB dedicated connections to help support fast internet and ensure reliability at even the busiest sites and times.

Will Munton, Huddersfield railway station Manager, said: “The Wifi will be a great addition to our stations at FTPE, especially here in Huddersfield and its installation is just one part of our commitment to customers to improve their journey and make each experience more enjoyable.

"We're really happy to have joined up with such a popular and reliable network as O2, and it's great they’ve come on board to provide our customers with what is set to be a great service."

Liz Collins, Finance Director, said, “I am delighted that after months of hard work by the IT Department we have started to roll this out across the network; improving the service that we offer to our customers.  Before the end of the Direct Award period in April 2016 we hope to provide free WiFi at 22 of our 30 stations, benefiting both customers and colleagues who are based there.”
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Introducing Our New Customer Service Development Programme

Customer service lies at the very heart of FTPE and we have an aspiration to become an organisation known for providing world class customer service.   

In the coming months, all customer facing colleagues will get the chance to partake in a brand new Customer Service Development Programme known as ‘Principles of Customer Service’. Those colleagues that successfully pass the course will benefit from receiving a professional customer service accreditation.

This flagship course has been accredited by leading customer service training providers, WorldHost, the company responsible for training the Olympic Gamesmakers back in 2012. 

The content itself is not meant to be rocket science; however it's aimed at enhancing our consistency and bringing everyone fully up to date with the latest research on what customers expect in 2015. All Customer Service Managers have already taken part in the programme and feedback has been hugely positive so far. 
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New Enhancements for Warrington Central Station

First TransPennine Express (FTPE) is inviting cyclists to park and ride, following the installation of multi-use cycle parking systems and cycle wheeling ramps at Warrington Central station, improving the access and services for its passengers.   

The station enhancements have delivered 40 new and secure cycle stand spaces, rail users simply park their bike as normal, inserting a one pound coin into the lock, securing their bike using a chain and key which is supplied. The stand can be used for as long as required and the cyclist will receive their money back in return for the key.

The British Transport Police (BTP) were in attendance at Warrington Central on Tuesday 24th February offering safety and security advice to cycle users along with providing free identification markings for customer’s bikes.

FTPE worked with Falco, a leading UK supplier of high quality street furniture and cycle shelters to install the new stands, to add a further level of customer assistance and to make travelling easier and more convenient.

The new cycle racks represent an investment of over £35,000 which has been funded through the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Cycle Rail Working Group Grant which seeks to improve integration between cycling and train travel.

Billy Vickers, Manchester Hub Station Manager, said: “This investment demonstrates our commitment to keeping both the station and its facilities up-to-date for our customers. The new stands will give passengers the opportunity to securely park their bikes before boarding the train for the next leg of their journey." 

Councillor Linda Dirir, executive board member for highways transportation and climate change at Warrington Borough Council, said: “Any initiative that promotes an alternative and environmentally friendly travel option certainly gets the green light from us. This is a welcome addition to Warrington’s transport system and I hope many people will take full advantage of this service.”

Warrington Central has a passenger usage of 1.6 million each year and with cycling increasing in the area, the additional cycle racks provide rail users with the capacity they need.
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Network Improvements – Farnworth Tunnel

The major investment currently underway at Farnworth Tunnel is progressing well and we continue to work closely alongside our partners at Network Rail and Northern Rail to ensure the project runs as smoothly as possible.

Over the last few weeks, staff from each organisation have been out and about talking to customers about the changes and providing them with support and information. Going forward, we will continue to have an enhanced presence at impacted stations where appropriate.

In addition, we have jointly developed a new fortnightly customer communication called ‘The Farnworth Flyer’ for regular users of the route. The newsletter is being handed out on peak time services to and from Manchester via Bolton and all editions can be found online: tpexpress.co.uk/travel-information/farnworth-tunnel/

Our sub-hired Class 156 trains from Northern Rail are now in operation on the route, providing much needed extra seats for customers. While Northern branded, these trains are managed by colleagues from FTPE and are operating as FTPE services.

Work on the tunnel itself is progressing to the planned timescales and 325 metres of track has already been removed from the Victorian tunnel.

A recent competition has also been held for local school children, who have been encouraged to design posters about railway safety and also, enter their desired name for the boring machine. The winner will be announced shortly and we will keep you posted on the outcome.

For all the latest on this engineering project, networkrail.co.uk/farnworth
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Three Queens Success

Together with our industry partners, the team here spent months planning for this major event which saw Cunard’s Three Queens appear together on Liverpool’s waterfront.

Hundreds of thousands of people visited the event during the weekend and significant demand was placed on the various transport links into the city.

Merseytravel, bus and rail operators, Network Rail, the local authorities, police and the Highways England worked together on the run up to the event. FTPE were able to strengthen services on key routes and provide additional support for customers.

An integrated transport co-ordination centre was set up during the event so organisations could jointly respond to hotspots and ensure they were issuing travel advice and consistent information could be communicated in a joined-up way.

More than 90,000 people used Liverpool Lime Street on Bank Holiday Monday and we provided extra strengthening and additional stops at key locations during the weekend. FTPE increased capacity by 56 per cent throughout Monday, and by 25 per cent over the course of Sunday.

More than 15,000 journeys were made on our services going in and out of Liverpool over the three days. Almost 4,000 more journeys than usual were made throughout the weekend.

Liz Chandler, Merseytravel’s Director of Corporate Development and Chair of the Liverpool City Region Major Events Transport Board, said:
“Ensuring hundreds of thousands of people could successfully get to the event and home by road and rail, and do it safely, is no mean feat but the transport community has demonstrated what can be achieved by working together.

“With the sheer volume of people on both sides of the Mersey, queuing was inevitable, and we warned people of that. However, with more and longer trains and extra buses on key routes, coupled with queuing systems and extra staff to keep people safe and moving at stations and dedicated event parking, transport played an essential supporting role in the hosting of this world-class event.

“There will always be lessons to learn, as there is with any big event, but the Three Queens has demonstrated that we have the relationships and structures in place to face the region’s next showcase event with confidence.”
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Community Rail in the City – Cumbria in Preston

On Wednesday the 20 May 2015, a team from Cumbria spent the day promoting rail travel to the county at Preston station.

This was part of Community Rail in the City Day held at a number of stations across the country on what has now become an annual event.

The event at Preston station was hosted by Virgin Trains and organised by the Cumbrian Community Rail Partnerships.

Volunteer attendees included individuals from Lakes Line and Furness Line rail user groups, Cumbria Tourism, Cumbria County Council, ACoRP and FTPE plus the Community Rail Partnership Officer, Jim Trotman.

 Customers at Preston were able to pick up leaflets, timetables, Kendal Mint-cake and Kendal Tea at the event.
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April 2015 - Update from Kathryn O'Brien, Customer Service Director 

In the last month, a number of major announcements have been made including the Invitation to Tender (ITT) for the future TransPennine and Northern franchises and more recently, confirmation of our Direct Award.

We welcome both announcements which have provided more clarity on the future. The changes outlined in the ITT specification will allow for greater connectivity between our great northern towns and cities, building towards a Northern Powerhouse.    

As part of the Direct Award, by April this year, we will have introduced free Wifi at seven  of our stations with further rollout planned for the future. 

With just under twelve months left before the end of our current franchise, we are not standing still and are still continuing to invest in customer service. I am delighted to share with you that all customer facing staff are currently taking part in a brand new customer development programme which has been put together by World Host, the organisation that trained the renowned ‘Gamesmakers’ on the run up to the 2014 Olympic Games.  

We are also continuing to invest in our stations and support the communities we serve. Brand new cycle racks and ramps have been installed at Warrington Central Station creating further journey options for local customers. In Huddersfield, the station has played host to a series of recent events, including the popular Pageturner’s Children’s Book Festival and SMART ticketing will soon be in operation.

Over the last few weeks, we have held a series of Stakeholder Business Updates across the network. These sessions provided a valuable opportunity for both myself and our Managing Director, Nick Donovan to meet with many of you face to face and initial feedback from these has been very positive.  

Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to all those that participated in our Stakeholder Survey. An overview of the results is included in this edition of my newsletter and your feedback will be used to inform our Stakeholder strategy going forward, as well as our 2015/16 Business Plan. 

Regards,

Kathryn O’Brien, Customer Service Director
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Hi Ron,

 Unfortunately, we are unable to accept payment by card from the USA due to our Visa verification process. Payment on our website must be made in pound sterling.
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North West Electrification Update: Farnworth Tunnel 

The major project to reconstruct Farnworth Tunnel begins shortly, with the 22 week blockade set to commence on the 2 May.

The existing tunnels are too small for the overhead lines, so one will need to be enlarged. This complex engineering project will involve filling in the big tunnel and then re-boring it using specialist, purpose built equipment before re-opening the almost 300m tunnel. 

Between 2 May and 4 October 2015, there will only be a single line in operation through the tunnel, meaning service frequency will be reduced. 

Network Rail, First TransPennine Express (FTPE) and Northern are working together to ensure that during the work, as many customers as possible are kept moving during what will be a difficult period.

FTPE will be supplementing Northern Rail’s timetable during this period by providing additional capacity during peak times. To view our timetable, click here: www.tpexpress.co.uk/travel-information/farnworth-tunnel/

On 27 March, local stakeholders and councillors visited the Network Rail site at Farnworth to see and hear about what will be happening.
  
The communications plan is already well underway and we are already using a variety of channels to keep customers informed.

Meet the Manager sessions will be taking place at affected locations over the next few weeks and customers will also be provided with a guide to their various journey options. 

For further information and updates on the project visit www.networkrail.co.uk/farnworth 
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Stakeholder Survey Results – Your Feedback

Stakeholders from a wide range of organisations and regions took the time to participate in our latest Stakeholder Survey.  

This is the ninth stakeholder survey to assess both the service FTPE provides and its communications.

This year’s overall satisfaction score was 83%, which is a slight decrease on last year’s overall result. It is clear from your feedback that this fell due to the performance and punctuality we delivered for much of last year. However, in the area of communication, all scores showed a clear improvement, highlighting that we are heading in the right direction when it comes to keeping you informed. 

Service Provision

- Scores relating to our performance and punctuality decreased overall with overall satisfaction of travelling on our services having slipped by 10% to 81%
- You said that performance following the May 2014 Timetable Change had been a problem
- Nearly 100% of respondents who took part in the survey had used our services in the last 12 months, an increase on last year’s result
- Despite issues with performance, more of you would recommend FTPE to a colleague compared to last year

Communication

- Most of you felt that our communications had improved over the last year, with this area improving by 8% to 77%
- 97%  of you said you valued contact and communication from the company
- You said the quality of face to face meetings had improved  and 96% of recipients were happy with these
- Ideally, you would like there to be more face to face meetings
- Going forward, you would like to know more about our future plans
- More and more of you are using our website, which you consider to be an important source of customer information
- When it comes to the type of information, updates on changes to trains services, investment plans and train service performance are most appreciated

Engagement

- Two thirds of stakeholders feel they are able to contribute to FTPE’s business plans
-  Many of you value having a known local contact 

Your feedback will be used to inform our Stakeholder strategy going forward, as well as our 2015/16 Business Plan, which is currently being formulated
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In their circles
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361 people
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All the latest news, information and updates on our franchise agreements, new trains project, CSR initiatives and job opportunities.
Introduction

Have you ever wondered what train companies do behind the scenes during disruption to get things back on track? Have you ever wanted more information about how a company like First TransPennine Express (FTPE) goes about planning timetables and reviewing its services? Perhaps you'd like front row seats to some of the biggest meetings on the future of our rail services.

Well, here you can find all the latest news, information and updates on a range of train-related issues, from our franchise agreements to the new trains project that you won't find anywhere else. Feel free to share any information you find on our Google+ page and let us know what you think.