We have started the New Year with the knowledge that FirstGroup will operate the new TransPennine Express franchise in partnership with Rail North.
Commencing on 1 April 2016, the business will deliver outstanding intercity connections across the North of England and into Scotland, providing an essential component of the Northern Powerhouse. We will deliver more services, more seats and new state-of-the-art intercity trains.
Leo Goodwin has been confirmed as the new Managing Director Designate for the new franchise, with Liz Collins acting as Interim Managing Director for the current First/Keolis business until April.
Leo has recently written to all stakeholders with an update on the franchise mobilisation.
Our priority now is providing a smooth transition from one franchise to the next and we are working closely together to achieve this. In the last week, we have met with many of you to discuss the new franchise and the exciting new benefits that this will bring.
The major investment in our railway infrastructure continues and we are pleased that the Greater Lincolnshire resignalling project has now been delivered and is already benefitting customers travelling between Doncaster and Cleethorpes.
In Leeds, the Southern Entrance has now officially opened, with 20,000 people using this during its first week of operation.
Elsewhere on our network, Lamington Viaduct is set to remain closed until at least the beginning of March while essential repairs are made to the structure . We continue to work with our industry colleagues to ensure customers are kept moving throughout this disruption.
Towards the end of 2015, we gave you the chance to provide your in depth feedback on our business and the way we work together with you. We were pleased to see a 60% increase in the amount of respondents compared to 2014 and the overall satisfactions score was 80%.
We were delighted to learn that 84% of you considered the experience travelling on our services to be either good or very good and it is clear from the findings that you consider our trains to be clean, tidy and modern. The full results can be found in this edition of my newsletter.
Customer Service Director
First/Keolis TransPennine Express
Almost 20,000 passengers used the new southern entrance at Leeds station during a successful first seven days – saving commuters almost an hour a week thanks to quicker access to the platforms.
The entrance, which provides access to the south of the city as well as the Dark Arches, saw a steady increase in users throughout the week after it was first opened on Sunday 3 January, peaking at over 4,000 people using it on Thursday 7 January.
Network Rail station manager Helen Dawson said: “The feedback we have had from customers has been excellent and as we expected, the number of passengers using the entrance has increased as more people realise that it is now open.
“The entrance will save over five minutes per journey for those working to the south of the city, which adds up to nearly an hour a week, and is also helping to reduce congestion in other parts of the station.”
The southern entrance forms part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan and with steps, lifts and escalator provides a fully accessible route to Leeds’ Granary Wharf area adjacent to the Leeds Liverpool canal.
Leeds station is England’s second busiest outside of London and sees over 100,000 passengers a day pass through it.
West Yorkshire Combined Authority Chair Cllr Peter Box said: “I am pleased to hear that people are starting to use the new entrance.
“It has been designed to save journey time for the large proportion of Leeds station users who get off the train and head for the city centres fast-growing south bank area.
“We have been out providing passengers with directions and information about the new entrance and it will take a while for everyone to adjust but I am confident we will see these figures grow.”
Before Christmas, many of you took the time to participate in our annual Stakeholder Survey.
This was the tenth survey to assess both the service you think we provide and the way we work with you.
This year’s overall satisfaction score was 80%, which is a slight decrease on last year’s overall result. Despite this, we were delighted that the response rate was nearly double that received last year with 133 individuals taking the time to complete the survey compared to 77 in 2014.
It is clear from your feedback that you felt the reliability and punctuality of our services had decreased. We experienced many challenges in the last few months of 2015 as a result of a variety of factors from infrastructure issues to driver shortages.
However it is also clear that you also had lots of positive things to say and it is clear that you continue to value the information you receive from us.
Scores relating to our performance and punctuality fell slightly,
although 68% think our performance has either improved or stayed at the same level over the last 12 months
Even with the significant increase in respondents, 91% of you have used our services in the past year
84% of you would say the overall experience of travelling on our services is good, a 3% improvement compared to 2014
73% of you would say that we are a business that delivers great service to our customers
Only 41% of you think that we proactively support charitable causes and it is clear that you want to know more about our activity in this area
Communication and engagement
Seven out of ten rate our communications as being good and relevant, while nine in ten would consider face to face meetings to be very relevant. It is clear you feel we listen to you
More of you feel valued by the company compared to last year and 74% of you agree that we clearly demonstrate this
86% of you were happy with the quality of face to face meetings, but you would like more of these
The vast majority (94%) of you said you value contact and communication from the company
While there have been performance challenges, 78% feel you have been kept informed about these; a significant improvement compared to last year. It is clear that you are very interested in understanding how we turn situations like this around 77% think we do a good job of sharing our plans for the future with you. The score in this area has shown a notable improvement from 2014 and you are keen for this to continue
While more than half feel able to contribute to our business plans, many of you feel that you would like to be more involved.
Your feedback will be used to inform our Stakeholder strategy going forward, as well as our engagement plans as part of the new TransPennine franchise.
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.
In just over 70 days FirstGroup will start operating the new TransPennine Express franchise in partnership with Rail North. This will be a very different type of franchise due to the opportunities presented by the devolution journey that is underway and we look forward to delivering our plans in partnership with you.
Our vision for this new franchise is to 'Take the North further', creating an intercity service for the North and Scotland and in doing so create economic prosperity. Our plan is backed by more than £500m of new investment that will transform the service and experience provided to customers. New trains, more seats and faster and more frequent journeys are at the heart of what we will do.
We are currently in our mobilisation phase for the new franchise, with an experienced team in place to secure a seamless transition for customers from one franchise to the next while also developing the range of improvements we will be delivering in the coming months.
I recognise that the involvement of FirstGroup in the joint venture for the existing franchise can cause confusion. If you have any queries relating to day to day matters at TransPennine Express please continue to liaise with your existing contact. If you have any queries relating to the new franchise, please let me know and I or one of my team will be able to assist you.
We will also be outlining our plans for the new franchise at the following stakeholder meetings that have been arranged by the current TransPennine Express franchise. Two of these have already taken place with more coming up:
• 15 February – Glasgow
• 16 February – Manchester
I know that many of our stakeholders will be attending these events and I look forward to meeting them there. If you would like to attend one of the meetings and have not received an invite please let me know which meeting you would like to attend and we will facilitate this for you.
During the coming weeks we will achieve significant milestones as we work towards the franchise start date of 01 April 2016. We are committed to working in an enabling way with our stakeholders and as such I will continue to write to you in the coming months to update you on progress made as we take the first steps in creating the intercity service of the North.
I look forward to working with you.
Designate Managing Director
Train services have resumed after the successful delivery of a £100m railway upgrade in Greater Lincolnshire as part of Network Rail’s, Railway Upgrade Plan.
The project saw engineers work over the Christmas period and into the New Year to upgrade 16 level crossings, re-signal 60 miles of track, replace two bridges and carry out structural inspections of bridges and stations. The extensive upgrade work took place during a 17-day closure of the rail network between Scunthorpe and Cleethorpes during which time buses replaced train services.
We operated a comprehensive replacement coach service while the work was underway, which ensured customers were kept moving. We would like to once again thank all of those that attended our Stakeholder Rail Replacement event, which enabled us to gather valuable feedback and suggestions, many of which were put in place.
The enhancements will benefit customers by enhancing the reliability of the line as well as creating the potential for more trains to run in the future.
The recent severe flooding across the North of England and Scotland has significantly affected many of the communities we serve and caused serious structural damage to the viaduct at Lamington, North of Lockerbie.
For safety reasons Network Rail has closed the viaduct, meaning our services to and from Edinburgh are currently starting and terminating at Lockerbie with services to and from Glasgow running as far as Carlisle.
We have organised a full replacement coach operation from both Carlisle and Lockerbie and have been keeping customers informed via a dedicated web page: http://www.tpexpress.co.uk/your-journey/scottish-service-disruption/
The line into Scotland is set to remain closed until at least the beginning of March as repairs to the damaged Viaduct will take longer than first anticipated.
Over the coming weeks. Network Rail engineers will continue to make the necessary structural repairs to the viaduct.
All the latest information on the repair work can be found online: networkrailmediacentre.co.uk/news/update-on-damage-to-lamington-viaduct-caused-by-storm-frank
Success for Scunthorpe Station
Scunthorpe station picked up the team award for ‘Keeping Communities Prospering’ at the inaugural ‘BeFirst Awards’ last week.
The award recognises the team’s efforts in driving up standards at the station, which is reflected in their consistently high scores for station quality, as well as their fundraising efforts.
The ‘BeFirst’ Awards celebrate the best of the best at FirstGroup, recognising people and teams who have made significant contributions to the business over the last 12 months.
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.
"Please do not flush nappies, sanitary towels, old mobile phones, unpaid bills, your ex's jumper, hopes, dreams or goldfish down the toilet."
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.