Transport User Voice July 2024 – Around Great Britain

05 July 2024

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West Midlands

West Midlands Customer Experience Day

The recent third annual customer experience day held at the Studio in Birmingham attracted more than a hundred members of frontline staff, leaders, and managers from the rail sector. The event is part of the Grand Railway Collaboration (GRC), a partnership between all the organisations involved in rail in the West Midlands.

The day was hosted by Alex Warner, the independent chair and Andy Camp, Commercial Director at Chiltern. At one point, Alex threw himself into an active demonstration of de-escalating and dealing with anti-social behaviour, and proceeded to be partially strangled, fully strangled, and flung around the stage. It was a bizarre but effective and had everyone in the room off their feet.

During the rest of the packed event, we heard updates about key workstreams ranging from revenue protection to anti-social behaviour – with the event’s keynote presentation given by Anne Shaw from Transport for West Midlands

We were pleased to host a session on ‘what passengers are telling us’, taking direct passenger feedback and putting it into context for train operators and other stakeholders – and took part in a lively question and answer session. It was encouraging that Transport Focus and the work of our Board was referenced frequently by the range of presenters.

The event helped to showcase the huge amount of good work being delivered by Transport Focus and was an excellent opportunity to talk about our new Business Plan.


We know from our research that accessibility, quality of information, weather resilience, and facilities onboard trains and at stations are important to passengers. The rail industry is listening and is investing in the development of a new facility in Wales which will support how it tests and brings new infrastructure forward and undertake research on new trains and services for passengers.

The Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) site at Onllwyn in Wales recently hosted a visit with Transport Focus Chairperson, Nigel Stevens, Chief Executive Alex Robertson and colleagues from the Transport Focus Wales team.

The new facility will include construction of two seven kilometre electrified testing loops, for continuous rolling stock testing and infrastructure. A platform and station set up will enable the new rolling stock to be tested, and the site will also include a technology park for research and development.

The site is also home to the former Heathrow Express trains, which will be weighted for use on the test track and are also part of the landscaping which includes an array of wind turbines which frame spectacular views down to Swansea Bay

There would be clear benefits to these and other aspects of the journey experience from the kind of development and innovation that future facilities at GCRE could offer.


We were recently delighted to be invited to the Scottish rail event of the year as the First Minister officially opened the Levenmouth railway and the two new fully accessible stations at Leven and Cameron Bridge. The new Leven and Cameron Bridge stations enjoy an hourly service to/from Edinburgh via Kirkcaldy. This is part of a new timetable, in which local communities were consulted on.

The £116m funded project, includes investment to make the line fully electric and the line has changed from single track to six miles of double track, making room for more trains for passengers and freight.

North England

Transport Focus Chairperson Nigel Stevens and Director David Sidebottom recently met with a range of key stakeholders across the North West, following the successful launch of our new Business Plan. Among others, Nigel met with Vernon Everitt, Transport Commissioner for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, to talk about development of the Bee Network across the region and the implications of bringing the bus network under control of the Authority in 2025.

Vernon also confirmed that Metrolink recently carried the largest number of passengers in its history. He welcomed the opportunity to work with Transport Focus to add further value to the work of the Combined Authority and its ambitious plans for transport users across the region.

To also better understand the views on bus provision across the Greater Manchester region, Patrick Sibley, Regional Chief Executive for Metroline, provided an update on its move into Manchester as part of the final rollout in January 2025. We set out key learnings from our 2023 Your Bus Journey survey results in Greater Manchester and agreed to share results from our 2024 survey to inform Metroline’s service in the future.

Finally, Nigel, Director Louise Collins and Senior Engagement Manager Lee Rowbotham met Amy Williams, North West Regional Director and colleagues from National Highways. They discussed the new and existing research and plans for engaging with drivers in the coming months – including our annual Strategic Road User Survey, and a project that looks at the effectiveness of diversion communications during engineering and road works on the motorway system.

South England

The fantastic STEAM museum in Swindon was the venue for the recent Great Western Railway (GWR) Community Rail and Stakeholder Conference. It was great to see so many people in the room passionate about improving rail for passengers.

The event was an opportunity to catch up with our key stakeholders about some important issues impacting passengers. We emphasised the disruptive impact poor performance has on passengers and the need for timely and clear advice for passengers when things do not go to plan.

Ahead of the upcoming improvement works at Severn Tunnel Junction, we pressed on the importance of ensuring plans are in place for clear passenger communications and ensuring staff are adequately briefed to support passengers on the ground.

It was good to see our research on ‘What matters to rail passengers’ taking centre stage, highlighting that better value for money would be the key motivator to encourage people to travel by train more, followed by better reliability. We heard from a range of speakers throughout the day on a diverse range of topics.

Key highlights were:

  • Marcus Jones, Network Rail’s Route Director for the Western route gave an update on some of the issues impacting on performance (trespass, climate change pressures on the network and infrastructure issues), as well as mitigations being put into place to make the railway more reliable for passengers. He also gave an update on progress of the Office of Rail and Road investigation into its poor performance on the Wales and Western route.
  • Sir Peter Hendy talked about the future of rail and a need to ‘work together to solve yesterday’s problems so they don’t happen today’.
  • A powerful presentation from charity ‘Life Cycle’ about its ‘Bikes beyond bars’. Unwanted bikes are donated to the charity and are taken to secure workshops inside local prisons. Here they teach prisoners the skills to completely refurbish them with prisoners earning a City & Guilds cycle mechanics qualification. Many of the unwanted bikes came from GWR stations.
  • Rachel Geliamassi, GWR’s Customer Service Director hosted a session on people at GWR which included their accessibility and inclusion initiatives and awards.


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