I am now reflecting on the past five months as I prepare to hand back the chief executive’s reins to Anthony after Easter. So what were the key moments?
Perhaps one of the most significant was the terrible weather we had both before and after Christmas, the damage to the infrastructure and inconvenience to many passengers. The scenes of the railway line at Dawlish just hanging in mid air and the landslips near Hastings are two prominent and scary images. Thankfully, the lines are rebuilt and mended and trains running again before Easter. We must be grateful for the Herculean effort that were into keeping people moving and repairing the lines.
But the Met Office reminded us again in their report that these extreme weather events will continue. So, is the rail network robust enough? Is there enough flexibility in the system to cope? Will passengers have the information to help them through the disruption? Resilience has to be a focus for the future, and thankfully the Government has set up a review to do just that. The recent announcement about investing in £38 billion over the next five years is positive and will help improve the railway for passengers. We expect this money ensures trains meet their targets for punctuality and cancellations: 92.5 per cent arriving on time by 2019. Our surveys show that improving these core features are what passengers care about. So investing in a resilient railway must go hand in hand.
Another has been the publication of three passenger surveys and the ability to compare passengers’ satisfaction on three ways of travelling. As indicated in my previous blog, trams turn out to be the most popular with an overall satisfaction score of 90 per cent, with buses coming a close second at 88 per cent and trains at 83 per cent. The measures for rail are now being included in the new franchises, so train operators will need to take a close interest in achieving target scores. The key point for me about these surveys is that they should drive improvements. To illustrate this, I was delighted that, when we launched the Bus Passenger Survey, representatives from Centro and National Express in the West Midlands told us how they had used last year’s scores. They both used them to focus on driving improvements for passengers. And latest results showed that they did, and what’s more, passengers noticed.
Anthony will resume his blog from next week.