Transport User Voice August 2023 – Once in a generation

20 July 2023

The Transpennine Route

Transport Focus has been out monitoring the passenger experience of travelling during the multi-billion pound Transpennine Route upgrade.

The ambitious Transpennine Route 15-year project between Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds and York will transform and modernise this popular route with more trains, seats and more reliable and frequent services.

Key to such an extensive and, from a passenger perspective, disruptive project are the impacts on those that use the route. Back in 2020 we published the Transpennine Route Upgrade – what do passengers want? report, and this included our five key recommendations for train operators and Network Rail for building passengers’ trust:

  • Deliver on promises and ensure passengers see improvements to capacity and reliability
  • Show that the railway is planning and delivering and minimising the impact on passengers
  • Keep passengers on trains – and were this isn’t possible, provide quality rail replacement services and communications
  • Prioritise accurate and timely information about the impacts on journeys and provide options and alternatives
  • Publicise compensation for commuters up front and regular, open and honest reports on progress.

Following major engineering work starting in 2021 we have been speaking to passengers, testing rail replacement services when passengers can’t be kept on trains and reviewing available information both online and at stations/on trains etc. Providing feedback quickly and directly is ensuring immediate issues are picked up and dealt with.

We’re a key partner in the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) project team and able to raise issues where longer-term solutions are needed in future phases of the programme. It’s also important to note that we’re seeing lots of good work and great engagement with those travelling on this part of the rail network.

What difference have we made so far?

There are a range of changes we’ve asked to be made based on what we’ve seen. This has included improvements to passenger signage in stations including where signage is located and ensuring clear communications and better briefings for staff to be able to provide information to passengers at stations. We know that passengers can be frustrated if staff do not have the most up to date information. We’ve spent a lot of our time reviewing the rail replacement bus services and have provided feedback on how these services could be better and that passenger information is clear and accessible on all rail websites and journey planners.

The future of the programme

The Transpennine Route Upgrade is a huge programme of work that will benefit transport users and the wider economy of the north of England. There is still some way to go in this 15-year project and we will continue to support this ambitious ‘once in a generation’ programme. Acting as the ‘critical friend’ we can make a difference to passengers now and as part of the new services in the future. We will continue to feedback and challenge the industry on where improvements can be made to drive customer experience and identify good practice that can also be shared across other parts of the rail industry.


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