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When a train enters a depot, a dedicated team sets about cleaning the train from cabin to carpet, inside and out – it takes 600 litres of water to wash a train, enough to fill almost eight bathtubs! And each year, around 75,000 bags of rubbish are removed; all of this goes to recycling or energy recovery. It doesn’t stop there. The team also works to empty and unblock toilets, and make sure they are looking spic and span ready for the next day’s service. 

Nicholas Sworowski, Fleet Commercial Engineer explains: 

While a typical car gets a service every 20,000 miles or every two years, whichever is sooner, a train covers 21,000 miles approximately every five weeks. So, once a train is finished for the day, it is taken to a depot where our engineering team carry out a strict maintenance regime, known as 'exams'. During these exams, the team make sure all the important parts are working and doing what they should be - from brake application to flushing toilets, oil changes to engine drops. These depots are located across the country and the maintenance is carried out on our behalf by Siemens.

Sometimes, things happen beyond our control, which mean we need to carry out emergency maintenance or repair work. For example, one of our regular problems are bird flying into our trains. When this happens, it can cause a lot of damage to a windscreen, which usually needs to be replaced at a depot so that a driver has a clear view. This repair work is often done overnight but can cause some disruption to services because the train has to be taken out of service for a day. 
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Performance Challenges
 
Unfortunately, we have experienced a particularly challenging autumn and our performance has suffered for a wide variety of different reasons, many of which have been out of our control.

Of course, you will be very aware that our performance has not recently been where we would like it to be and we appreciate the frustration this has caused for customers. At this stage, I want to clarify that this is not down to one single issue but rather a culmination of different issues happening simultaneously.

What are the key challenges we’re facing?

The number one cause of our recent poor performance, network wide, has been issues with infrastructure. As Network Rail is responsible for the maintenance of the infrastructure that our trains run on we are continuing to meet with them on a daily basis to discuss service recovery and asset reliability.

The popularity of rail travel continues to increase in the UK and our network is no exception. We have the highest seat occupancy of any UK rail operator so our network is congested at normal times of operation and even more so during disruption.

Last month saw an increase in the number of trespass incidents and fatalities on our network. Network Rail have put suicide prevention methods in place at stations and known hotspots but sadly there are still a high number of incidents. We continue to support Network Rail on preventative measures and our frontline colleagues attend Samaritans training.

In recent weeks, our performance has also suffered as a result of a particularly bad leaf fall. In our case, the issue is largely caused by the significant impact this has on Northern Rail’s fleet and our own trains getting stuck behind affected units. We continue to meet with industry colleagues, working together to see how we can better address seasonal issues.

Leaves also cause challenging driving conditions for train drivers. After being pressed on to the tracks, leaves create a Teflon-like coating which causes the lines to become slippery –similar to black ice on the roads. When a train passes over a particularly slippery piece of track and the brakes are applied, this can cause damage to the wheels which develop a flat spot, or a ‘wheel flat’. When this happens, the train needs to be taken back to the depot for repair.

Although overall our fleet is performing reasonably well, we are experiencing some issues with our Class 185 engines. To address this, an engine improvement programme is currently underway and the fleet team are looking at opportunities to speed this up to resolve issues as soon as possible.

The radiators on our Class 185 units are also proving problematic, due to an issue with their mountings on the vehicle. To mitigate this we are performing checks on each train every 48 hours. Long term, we are embarking on a full overhaul progamme, a lengthy process which will ensure these trains are returned to their optimum condition.

The last period also saw the cessation of our Driver Rest Day Working (RDW) agreement by lead driver union, ASLEF, which has resulted in just over 5% of journey cancellations thus far.

As I’m sure you appreciate, this is a difficult situation for all concerned and at present, this issue is mainly affecting our route between Sheffield and Cleethorpes, a direct result of short term sickness at the latter location.

There are currently 65 drivers who drive trains on the route between Sheffield and Cleethorpes, however at our Cleethorpes depot, currently only 23 (out of 30) are productive, while the remainder are unable to drive due to sickness or medical reasons.

To give us more flexibility, we have already taken on two new qualified drivers at Cleethorpes and three new drivers at Sheffield, with both currently receiving training which will be completed by the end of the year.  Offer letters have been sent out to four, more qualified drivers who will subsequently begin their training with us. This will result in us carrying a surplus of between 10-15% at our Cleethorpes depot.

We have recently reached an agreement with the local union to widen driver route coverage on the South route.

The safety of our staff and customers takes priority at all times and we would like to assure you and our customers that we are doing everything we can to keep overall delays to a minimum.

We have issued communications to both our staff and customers regarding this matter and information is available on our website: tpexpress.co.uk/about-us/news-blog/news/2015/11/apology-letter/.
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Thanks Michael and apologies that your journey took longer than it should have.
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Manchester Piccadilly Christmas Community Market
 
It was great to see some of you at the Christmas Community Market at Manchester Piccadilly on the 13th and 14th December. The three day event was organised by the Mid-Cheshire Community Rail Partnership and provided an excellent opportunity to chat with our customers and put a smile on their faces by giving our freebies.
 
A big thank you to Sally Buttifant in particular, who organised the event.
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Over the past 12 months, we’ve made significant investments to improve our service for you, such as, opening up new information centres at Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly, and training our staff to the ‘London 2012 Olympic Games Maker’ standards.
Head of Customer Services, Stephen Lee, talks about our commitment to customers and how we continually improve customer service. And that’s not all.

We’re the first train company in the UK to launch Blue Assist, which helps people who may have difficulties communicating to let us know they need our assistance. Over 20 of our staff have now graduated with a ‘Level 3 Customer Service Diploma’ and there are more to follow.

And we’re being recognised for our efforts, too. We recently achieved the ‘Putting the Customer First’ accreditation in recognition of our commitment to you, and this month our Manchester Airport station won ‘Large Station of the Year’ at the National Rail Awards.
Every day, over 1,200 of our staff are working hard to deliver a great service for you, whether that’s driving trains, helping you with your luggage or making sure you have access to information when you need it.

Our achievements over the last 12 months are testament to our commitment and show how serious we are about this and while we want to celebrate these during National Customer Service Week, we know that delivering great customer service is a daily commitment from us to you, and we want to make sure we continue surprising and delighting you – thanks for choosing to travel with us.
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What do small toys, glasses and false teeth have in common? They’ve all been found flushed down our train toilets. Keeping a train clean and in tip top condition takes a lot of work and in this film we explain how we do it. 

When a train enters a depot, a dedicated team sets about cleaning the train from cabin to carpet, inside and out – it takes 600 litres of water to wash a train, enough to fill almost eight bathtubs! And each year, around 75,000 bags of rubbish are removed; all of this goes to recycling or energy recovery.

It doesn’t stop there. The team also works to empty and unblock toilets, and make sure they are looking spic and span ready for the next day’s service. 
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Stagecoach do a sign in their toilets, which is quite humourous,

"Please do not flush nappies, sanitary towels, old mobile phones, unpaid bills, your ex's jumper, hopes, dreams or goldfish down the toilet."
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Kathryn's Update - December 2015

Dear Colleagues,

Firstly, I want to thank you for your patience and understanding during what has been a very challenging autumn for us in performance terms.

It is fair to say that the removal of our driver Rest Day Working sanction has had an impact on our performance, with this mainly affecting trains on our South route between Sheffield and Cleethorpes (including the Barton service).

However, this is only one factor when it comes to explaining just why our performance has been so poor.  Indeed, the issues are as a result of a wide range of different reasons, including problems with railway infrastructure, the impact of leaf fall and an increase in the number of trespass incidents, across our network.

We are putting every effort into ensuring the situation improves and are confident that the measures we have put in place will give us more resilience and flexibility going forward. We ask that you please bear with us during this testing time.

At the time of writing, we are eagerly awaiting the outcome of our franchise competition. While we do not know who the winning bidder is, one thing is certain; that the future of rail in the North of England is set to be a very exciting one.

Rest assured, we have plans in place to communicate this news with you as soon as it is announced.

On Wednesday 24 November, Sir Peter Hendy's report was published. You will already have seen the previous commitment for electrification between Manchester and Leeds, and it is pleasing to see that the associated Northern Hub works are committed to continue. The full report can be found here: networkrail.co.uk/Hendy-review/

We continue to support Network Rail with their major programme of infrastructure improvements. Engineers have now broken through the tunnel at Farnworth near Bolton and in Lincolnshire, preparations are well underway for the resignalling project taking place this Christmas.

The interest in transport in the North continues and we remain at the heart of future plans. On Monday 30 November, John Cridland was announced as the first Chair of Transport for the North (TfN). As part of the announcement, he visited Manchester Airport Station along with Andrew Jones MP. In recent weeks, we have also had other high profile visitors to our network including Lord Adonis, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission and David Brown, Chief Executive of TfN.

We continue to actively seek out opportunities in the communities we serve and a few weeks ago attended the Parliamentary launch event for Hull City of Culture 2017, a very special occasion which offered much food for thought.

I would like to thank all those that took the time to complete our Stakeholder Survey. The survey has now closed and the key findings will be shared with you in the New Year.

Your feedback is of course, always welcome and our Stakeholder Relations Manager, Sarah, is always happy to hear from you: Sarah.Cunningham@firstgroup.com

Regards,

Kathryn O’Brien,
Customer Service Director
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Upgrading the Railway in Greater Lincolnshire

Around £100 million is currently being invested in the railway in Greater Lincolnshire. This will help improve the reliability of our railway as well as boosting economic growth in the area.

This programme of improvements includes the renewal of signalling between Scunthorpe and Cleethorpes and developments at Doncaster station, including the installation of a new platform. Along with this, 16 level crossings are being upgraded and two new bridges are being constructed while vital inspection work is undertaken on dozens more.

Work is already taking place at night and on weekends and parts of the railway line will also need to be closed this Christmas for a period of 17 days, meaning some disruption to customers’ journeys.

Working with First Rail Support, we will be providing a replacement coach service between Scunthorpe and Cleethorpes from Sunday 27 December for a period of 15 days.

Coaches will also be replacing trains between Doncaster and Cleethorpes on Sunday 27 December 2015, Monday 28 December 2015 and Sunday 03 January 2016.

We are encouraging those travelling over the festive period to visit: tpexpress.co.uk/greaterlincs before planning their journey.
                                                                                                                                 On Sunday 29 November we held a stakeholder coach tour with our replacement transport provider, First Rail Support.

At the event, attendees had the chance to experience our replacement coach offering for themselves, gaining a better understanding of the routes these services would be taking along with our customer services provision. There was also an opportunity to ask questions with colleagues from FTPE, Network Rail and First Rail Support on hand to help.
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Full train timetable to resume between Manchester and Bolton

Network Rail has announced that services on the route between Manchester and Bolton will return to a full timetable from Monday 14 December.

As part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan, Farnworth Tunnel, near Bolton, is being enlarged to enable it to house two electrified lines.

Following the breakthrough on 25 October, Network Rail has continued to work with train operators to reinstate normal passenger services as soon as possible.

A weekend closure of the route – on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 December – will see the new tracks brought in to use through the new tunnel. There will initially be a speed restriction on this new section of railway, which will be removed after some further work in the New Year.

This will require an additional closure of the railway in January. Full details will be confirmed as soon as possible.

Nick Spall, route delivery director at Network Rail said: “Farnworth Tunnel is an extremely complex engineering challenging being delivered as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan. Breaking through to complete the tunnel was a key milestone for the project. There is more work to do before we can bring this new section of railway into use. This will require a short closure of the railway.

“We have worked closely with Northern Rail and First TransPennine Express to plan the work to cause the least amount of disruption to passengers. I would like to thank passengers and local residents for their patience so far.”

Nick Donovan, managing director, First TransPennine Express: “The project at Farnworth Tunnel is essential to enabling the electrification and longer term improvement to capacity over the route. It is good to see that the important milestone of completing tunnelling work has been achieved. I would like to thank customers for their continued patience over the next few months when there will be further periods of disruption while this project is completed.”

To complete the project Network Rail needed to find a date when specialist equipment is available, and balance this with the need to minimise disruption to passengers. The two stage solution was agreed by the rail industry after considering all the options available to them.
Over 30,000 tonnes of material have been removed from the 270m-long tunnel, with 1,940 concrete sections put in place.

* While trains have been running bi-directionally on a single line, services have been less frequent but more carriages have been added to trains to maintain the usual level of capacity. Returning to a normal timetable from Monday 14 December will enable Northern Rail to restore train service frequency and station calls as well as provide longer trains.
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Poppy Trains’ Launched Across North of England to Mark Poppy Appeal

Last month, we chose to support the Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal by adding poppy vinyls to our train fleet.
 
Representatives from the Greater Manchester branch of the Legion joined us at Ardwick depot to launch one of the first of up to 65 Poppy Appeal trains into service, as well as being given a behind-the-scenes tour.
 
Paul Staples, Fleet Director at First TransPennine Express, said: “Applying poppies to our trains was a great way for us to show our support for the Poppy Appeal, raising awareness of the iconic symbol across the North of England in recognition of the great work the Legion does to support veterans and the Armed Forces. We also had poppy boxes and collections at the majority of our stations too.”
 
Danielle Neighbour, Community Fundraising Manager – North East at the Royal British Legion said: “We are so thankful to First Transpennine Express for supporting the Royal British Legion and the 2015 Poppy Appeal. The money raised will go to the Royal British Legion's work providing support for anyone currently serving in the British Armed Forces, anyone who has previously served, and their families. The poppy is a powerful symbol which is one to commemorate the sacrifices of our Armed Forces and to show support for those still serving today and their loved ones.”
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Thanks Michael, we thought so too!
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Cash 4 Kids

This year we are supporting the Key 103 Cash 4 Kids: Mission Christmas appeal, to help put a smile on the faces of underprivileged children across our network.

The appeal aims to fill Santa's sleigh with enough presents to make sure no child wakes up without a gift on Christmas morning and relies on generous donations of toys by people across the North of England.
Last year the appeal collected more than 32,000 presents for children in Greater Manchester alone, but with an estimated 150,000 children living in poverty in the region, there's still a long way to go.

We have already donated more than £10,000 to the appeal, raised from our annual staff awards ceremony, the Customer Excellence Awards.

Our staff are also being invited to donate a gift for the appeal, and our choir is singing at stations including Manchester Airport, Manchester Piccadilly and Huddersfield on Tuesday 15 December to raise funds.
We are also holding a Christmas jumper day on Friday 18 December where our staff can wear a festive jumper and donate to the cause.
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Kathryn's Introduction - October 2015

Dear Colleague,

I am thrilled to be able to begin my update with news of our most recent award wins.

Grange-over-Sands picked up the accolade for ‘Best Station Garden and Large Floral Display’ at the 2015 Association of Community Rail Partnership (ACoRP) awards, while Hull Paragon achieved third place in the ‘World War One Commemoration Project’ category for its special station memorial, dedicated to the fallen. A special mention also goes to the Furness and Lakes Line Community Rail Partnerships, who won the top prize in the ‘Community Art Scheme’ category for the student art projects undertaken on both lines. Read more about this here: https://plus.google.com/+transpennineexpress/posts/4CSPf83zpSK

At the National Rail Awards, Manchester Airport won the top prize in the ‘Large Station’ category as a result of the continued investment in facilities and enhancements in capacity, including two additional platform installations, during the life of our franchise. The judges also highlighted the excellent interchange options at the station, offered through bus and Manchester Metrolink.

Elsewhere in Greater Manchester, the project at Farnworth Tunnel has been extended beyond the original completion date of 4 October 2015 due to exceptionally poor ground conditions. To read the latest update on this, visit: networkrail.co.uk/farnworth/. We continue to work with colleagues at Network Rail and Northern Rail and our extended train plan, which will offer weekend services from 10 October, is now available online: tpexpress.co.uk/farnworth

More than £1bn is being invested in rail over the next few years, in what is the most notable transformation since the Victoria era. Our Programme Director, Chris Nutton, reflects on this in a recent interview in The Times’ SuperNorth supplement. You can read this here: https://plus.google.com/+transpennineexpress/posts/456WgaJmWpf

The recent announcement regarding TransPennine electrification is excellent news for the North of England and for customers, who will benefit from improved services and better connectivity across the Pennines. As the region's intercity operator, we have experienced a huge increase in the demand for rail travel over the past few years and rail travel has never been as popular.

Disappointingly, our lead driver union, ASLEF, has chosen to walk away from their long-term Rest Day Working (RDW) agreement, due to expire in October 2016.

Two years ago, this had a major impact on our services, with many being cancelled at short notice causing significant disruption to customers.  While our business is now in a much more resilient position, you'll appreciate that we are vulnerable to short-term sickness and other fluctuations in driver availability. To read more about this, go here: https://plus.google.com/+transpennineexpress/posts/Mz3x52Vgfq3

Three of our trains recently featured in the Department for Transport’s list of top ten busiest services across England and Wales. All three trains run between Manchester and Scotland and their popularity has been steadily increasing following our introduction of ten new electric trains on the route in 2014. Customers want to travel on these trains as they offer a much faster service, after all, the journey time from Wigan to Manchester has now been reduced by a third.

To try and alleviate some of the crowding issues, we are constantly reviewing our train plans and strengthening services where possible. The whole of the UK is experiencing unprecedented numbers of people choosing to travel by train so this is something that is being felt across the industry. As the fastest growing UK train operator, doubling our customer numbers to 29 million over the past 11 years, this is a challenge for us but we are committed to providing the best possible service for our customers.

The Rugby World Cup continues and matches recently  took place in Leeds and Newcastle. The transport plan ran smoothly and despite large numbers, we managed to keep customers and fans moving.  The rugby arrives in Manchester on the 10 October and this weekend is set to be both a challenge and a huge opportunity for us.  We have been working closely alongside industry partners to ensure the day runs as smoothly as possible.

We are fully embracing this year’s National Customer Service Week and have lots of activities planned across our network.  This is the perfect chance for us to showcase and raise awareness of our commitment to providing world class customer service.

Finally, we will soon be giving you the opportunity to provide feedback on our business and the way we work with you via our 2015 Stakeholder Survey. This will be emailed to you directly and I encourage you to take the time to give us your views.

Your opinions really matter to us and following the valuable feedback we received last year, we have made a number of improvements. To read more about this, head to: https://plus.google.com/+transpennineexpress/posts/SJLtULvBEi8

I hope you find this newsletter useful and please get in touch with any questions.

Kathryn
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In their circles
255 people
Have them in circles
393 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.