Transport User Voice – April 2023 – Taking a look around Great Britain
30 March 2023
The West Midlands, Wales and Scotland
The West Midlands
New trains, developing new stations and new initiatives all feature in an extremely busy March in the West Midlands.
We were at Worcester for the launch of new trains as West Midlands Railway introduced long awaited new class 196s. Station development in central Birmingham is also taking place with demolition works to make way for the new Pineapple Road station development which will be a key part of reintroducing services on the Camp Hill Line. Existing stations are also being enhanced. Platform changes at Birmingham New Street will be starting soon and carrying on for most of the year so that strengthening works to platform ceilings can be done.
Birmingham New Street was also extremely busy during the Cheltenham Festival. We were pleased to see that there was excellent signage, queueing systems and information supported by staff availability. Well done to all concerned.
Also International Women’s Day saw the launch of a pilot of free sanitary products for women at Birmingham Stations. This is a great initiative that has been driven by Network Rail and the Grand Railway Collaboration.
We had the chance to present our research on what matters most to passengers at West Midlands Trains’ Community Rail station volunteer conference. Also celebrated was the pioneering work of the Friends of the Shakespeare Line and a world-first in Community Station Partnerships.
Out and about supporting passengers
We have been getting out across the network to see what the experience is like for passengers. We found stations in North Wales including Bangor, Rhyl, Llandudno and Llandudno Junction were generally well maintained and welcoming with helpful staff.
We did take the opportunity to point out some areas that needed attention. This included out of date posters and ticket machine information, faded signage, cleanliness issues and incorrect details on station information website pages. We also suggested there may need to be improvements around supporting vulnerable passengers. We are pleased to hear these issues are currently being addressed and look forward to checking back once they’re sorted.
We got to try the new class 197 trains which offer a much-improved passenger experience with comfortable seats, improved accessibility and passenger information. We also spoke to passengers on board who gave us useful insight about how they use Transport for Wales’ services, what they like and what they’d like to see improved. This has been shared with Transport for Wales (TfW) to use in planning services.
While in North Wales we also joined TfW’s new ‘customer first’ workshops with staff where we discussed our ‘What matters to rail passengers’ research. It was good to see examples of staff actively working on making improvements for passengers.
We are concerned to see significant issues impacting passengers caused by the removal of the class 175 trains for safety inspections. This has been made worse by the MK IV proving be unreliable. We have been pressing TfW to ensure everything possible is being done to get the trains back into service as soon as it is safe to do so. We are also pushing for transparent communication with passengers so they know what is happening and how their journeys might be affected.
Launch of the new T1 electric bus
We went to the launch in Carmarthen of the all new T1 electric buses which will serve the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth TrawsCymru route. We tried out one of the new buses and saw the new charging depot where Lee Waters MS, deputy minister for climate change, cut the ribbon to formally launch the service. The buses are of a really high standard and offer a great experience for passengers. They have better accessibility, comfortable fabric and leather seats, reading lights, USB and wireless charging, flip down tables, coat hooks and improved information screens.
Caledonian Sleeper services will be provided by the Scottish Government from the 25 June 2023 when the current franchise expires. Minister for transport Jenny Gilruth announced this would be the case in at the start of the month.
We have met Caledonian Sleeper to discuss the new arrangements. This included looking at the current guest satisfaction survey which Transport Focus set up in 2017. This has helped set the benchmarks on measuring customer satisfaction while taking account of the unique nature of overnight rail travel.
We met ScotRail to discuss sustainable travel to stations. The objective is to help make it easy, convenient and safe for most passengers to get to and from railway stations without a car. This would both increase passengers as well as help the Government objective to reduce car kilometres by 20 per cent by 2030.
We joined a meeting of the bus taskforce in the Scottish Parliament recently to get an update of its aims which include:
- tackling the driver shortage in the industry
- improving community engagement by developing best practice guidance
- developing the case for boosting passenger numbers, recommendations to prioritise bus and maximising existing policies.
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