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July 2015 - Introduction from Customer Service Director, Kathryn O'Brien

Dear Colleagues,

Since I last spoke to you, rail has featured heavily in the media with perhaps the most notable announcement confirming a pause in the planned trans-Pennine electrification.

Customers can still look forward to an enhanced railway service based of the Department for Transport’s aspirations for the future of rail services, as outlined in the Invitation to Tender (ITT) document.  
 
As custodians of the current franchise, the announcement does not distract us from our continued focus on investing and enhancing our service.

The major project currently taking place at Farnworth Tunnel near Bolton is proceeding well and the 900-tonne boring machine will be entering the tunnel shortly. We are working with our partners, Network Rail and Northern Rail to ensure customers are kept moving and informed throughout. To read the latest update from Network Rail visit:  www.networkrail.co.uk/farnworth/

A few weeks ago, our Managing Director, Nick Donovan, joined a panel of industry experts at The Times newspaper’s SuperNorth event in Leeds, to talk about FTPE’s role in the future of rail and how we can support the development of the Northern Powerhouse.

A feature relating to this and an interview with Nick featured in the Times North business supplement. To read it, visit: www.supernorth.co.uk/index.html

As Customer Service Director for FTPE, I am personally thrilled that this month, we were awarded ‘Putting the Customer First’ accreditation following an in depth assessment of our business.

We are pleased that the RMT dispute affecting our South route has now been resolved and the ASLEF strike planned for earlier this month, cancelled.

More news from the last four weeks can be found in this edition of my newsletter and as always, I hope you find it useful.

If you have any feedback, please contact us at: tpeexchange@firstgroup.com

Regards

Kathryn O’Brien, Customer Service Director, First TransPennine Express
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Going Green

For the 8th consecutive year, we have joined forces with the Forestry Commission (FC) to offer community environmental projects across the North of England and Scotland the opportunity to win a grant of up to £2.5k to help them make green-fingered improvements to their local area.
 
The competition is open to community groups, charities, schools and other individuals who allow open access to their land. Applicants can apply for up to £2,500 in green grants for environmental projects such as tree planting, habitat restoration and wildlife protection or enhancement.

The donations form part of our long-term commitment to providing and protecting green areas on and around ours routes.
 
A select team of judges, comprised of FTPE and Forestry Commission representatives, will carefully consider each application. Factors to be taken into account will be the involvement with, and impact on the local community, as well as the overall positive environmental impact and proximity to our stations.

In addition, the panel will look at sustainability, clear identification of the costs and photos that support applications.

Iain Peacock, Environment and Safety Information Manager for FTPE, said: "The Green Grants Scheme has helped many worthwhile projects and community groups and we are delighted to once again have the opportunity to work with applicants for such great causes, enabling the communities in the North of England and Scotland to benefit.

"We are also looking forward to teaming up with the Forestry Commission again and I hope that it will inspire people to make a positive contribution to their local environment and protect their wildlife."
 
We have been helping improve the environment and encouraging the growth of wildlife in the North of England and Scotland since 2007.
 
Those interested in applying for Green Grant should visit:               tpexpress.co.uk/about-us/customer/corporate-responsibility/environment/
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Hull Cycle Hub Launch
 
A new cycle hire and parking facility has been officially opened at Hull Paragon Station.
 
Funding for the Cycle Hub came from a £108,000 grant from the Department of Transport and a £24,000 grant from Humberside police and crime commissioner, Matthew Grove.

The cycle hub was officially opened by Alan Johnson, MP for Hull West and Hessle at an event on 10 July 2015.

The new facility features the UK's first dedicated charging point, which can be used by up to six electric cycles at a time.

Alan Johnson MP said: "This is a great idea on a number of levels. It will make getting around the city centre much easier, it provides an opportunity for cyclists to keep their bikes safe and secure when they're not using them and it is good for health because we all know there is a problem with obesity in this area.

"I also think it provides a great opportunity with UK City of Culture coming up in 2017.

"A lot of people are going to be coming to Hull during that year and this is a great way for people who like cycling to see more of the city on two wheels.”

As well as the parking and hire facilities, there is also a small workshop for cyclists to carry out running repairs to their bikes.
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Poetry Unveiling at Dewsbury Railway Station
 
Paula Sherriff MP joined us to unveil an array of plaques containing locally produced poetry at Dewsbury station, penned by talented students from Kirklees College.
 
The poetic enhancements, which are installed in the station’s customer waiting area, are part of a community project with the college, which saw students embark on visits to the station where they produced poems inspired by the railway and local life.
 
The work has added a sense of community spirit to the waiting room and it is hoped that the special plaques will provide inspiration to customers.  
 
At the launch event, members of the public were provided with free pens and encouraged to have a go at penning their own poem.
 
Will Munton, Station Manager for West Yorkshire said: “We are committed to supporting the communities we serve and are delighted to support local organisations, particularly when it comes to enhancing our stations, making them bright, colourful and attractive places to be.”
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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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We Receive Top Customer Service Accreditation

We are continuing on our journey to become a world class provider of customer service and have recently been awarded the ‘Putting the Customer First’ accreditation mark.

This prestigious accolade is the national standard for customer service excellence and FTPE is only the second UK train operating company to achieve this.

Assessors from Customer First spent time in the business, meeting with different departments and interviewing a large variety of colleagues from across the network.

Kathryn O’Brien, Customer Service Director said: “I’m proud that we have been recognised once again for our commitment to our customers and would like to say a personal thank you to everyone who has contributed.

“The challenge for us now is to keep up this great work and ensure we are consistently delivering great service. I know we will continue to put customers at the heart of everything we do.”
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National Rail Passenger Survey Results

In the latest National Rail Passenger Survey, we achieved an overall satisfaction rating of 85 per cent, with 24 million customers recognising improvements in value for money, more capacity and connections with other forms of public transport.
 
The independent survey, which canvassed the opinions of over a thousand passengers across our network, revealed passenger satisfaction with its services has either improved or remained the same in 28 out of 37 areas.
 
Our passengers were most satisfied with sufficient room to sit and stand, which grew by 12 per cent compared to last year, along with how well we dealt with delays which improved by ten per cent, as did space for luggage and connections with other forms of public transport which increased by nine per cent and seven per cent respectively.
 
Kathryn O’Brien, Customer Service Director said: “Over the last year, we have made significant investments into improving our services, for example, the introduction of a new fleet of electric trains in May 2014, which provided more seats and services, and faster journey times, especially during the peak times.
 
“While the current passenger satisfaction results are important to us and encouraging in a lot of areas, we remain focused on delivering even more enhancements over the coming months. These include the roll-out of free Wi-Fi at stations across our network, a major programme of customer service training for staff, and continuing to work with our industry partners to play a key role in the delivery of vital infrastructure improvements for rail in the north.”
 
As well as overall satisfaction with journeys, satisfaction results remains unchanged in seven key areas compared to last year, including: overall station environment; provision of information about train times and platforms; station staff helpfulness; on-board staff helpfulness; how station staff handled requests; train cleanliness; and staff availability.
 
Passengers were interviewed between January and March this year and full results of Transport Focus’ spring 2015 ‘National Rail Passenger Survey’ can be found here: www.transportfocus.org.uk/research/national-passenger-survey-introduction
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FTPE Supporting Disability Awareness Day

On 12 July 2015, we supported the annual Disability Awareness Day held in Warrington Town Centre.
 
We were one of 250 exhibitors in attendance on the day and promoted our business and the initiatives in place to support customers with disabilities.
 
The popular event offered the ideal opportunity to talk about Blue Assist, an easy and unique way for customers to ask for assistance.
 
Those wishing to ask for assistance can do so by picking up a free blue card, writing a message on it and presenting it to any member of FTPE staff. For more information on this industry leading initiative, visit: www.tpexpress.co.uk/contact-us/assistance/
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Marking the 175th Anniversary of the Hull to Selby line

On the 1 July 2015, the line between Hull and Selby celebrated its 175th anniversary and a special event took place to mark the occasion.

FTPE manage both Hull Paragon and Selby railway stations and partnered with the Selby Civic Society and Selby Rail User Group to support the organisation of the event and the production of a special booklet which detailed the impressive history of the line. 

The free booklets were handed out to customers on the day itself, along with slices of birthday cake, courtesy of Selby station café.
 
Civic Society members also received a guided tour of Selby's current and former rail facilities, as well as the original station of 1834, Yorkshire's first railway station.
 
Dave Hatfield, Station Manager for Humberside said: "We are thrilled to be able to support the production of this commemorative booklet, and the event itself, which recognises the line’s rich heritage and the fact it has enabled hundreds of thousands of people to connect with Hull, Selby and other major destinations across the North of England since opening."
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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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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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In their circles
256 people
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368 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.