Transport User Voice – June 2022 – Around Great Britain
26 May 2022
Scotland, Wales, the West Midlands and London
In summer 2021 we encouraged ScotRail to consult on its proposals for the May 2022 timetable. We were pleased that ScotRail received 3450 responses – more than for any other consultation in its history – and the consultation website was viewed more than 25,000 times.
The public consultation informed the final timetable and from Monday 16 May, ScotRail aimed to operate around 2150 daily services. That is an increase of nearly 150 services each day compared to when the consultation began last year.
However, due to the ongoing impact of a significant number of drivers declining to make themselves available for overtime or rest day working, the timetable was unable to be delivered on a consistent and reliable basis. This meant a large number of trains were cancelled at short notice, inconveniencing many passengers.
Transport Focus supported the introduction of the temporary timetable now in place as a regrettable but necessary measure to provide a consistent and reliable service. But we have asked ScotRail to monitor the effectiveness of the timetable and consider reviewing it in order to provide more services on routes in the evening/night where possible.
We recently attended the opening of the Stagecoach customer contact centre in Perth.
The centre is part of the overall plan to drive improved customer service while providing an easier way for customers to contact Stagecoach.
Customers from right across the UK will be able to use the new one-stop phone and digital contact point as of 19 May 2022. The multi-skilled team of more than 60 customer service advisors and team leaders will operate an improved seven day a week service. This will move to fully extended opening hours on weekdays and weekends, within the year, to align better with how people travel.
Stagecoach is also investing in a new customer relationship management system to help provide tailored support, better understand customers’ end-to-end journeys, and quickly address any emerging common issues.
Planning priorities for Network Rail
Network Rail is planning for its next five year investment period, which runs from 2024 to 2029. Transport Focus took part in workshops on the Wales and Western region to represent the passenger view in planning, We know that key considerations are weather resilience, punctuality, accessibility along with maintenance and renewals to make sure trains are up to date.
We’ll continue to work with Network Rail to ensure these aspects remain central to future plans.
Transport for Wales (TfW) service design panel
As part of the TfW service design panel (how well services meet passengers’ needs), we travelled on the MKIV (Cardiff to Holyhead) train service as far as Shrewsbury. We tested the passenger experience in both standard and first-class and identified what needs to be added to the fleet quality audit checklist (a list of how well the trains meet certain criteria). We helped ensure the checklist was fit for purpose, based on what we know passengers value from train services. We made recommendations for things to add to the list, making sure TfW measures what is important to passengers.
This also gave the opportunity to feed back on the passenger experience at the station and onboard for the return journey. We found that many things worked well such as the accurate capacity checker information and cleanliness on board. But there was still room for improvement, particularly with onboard passenger information, management of crowding on the trains and at stations, out of date Covid information and vaping on board.
We sent a full report to TfW to encourage it to make improvements. We also welcome further improvements at Swansea station with new planters and benches outside the station, making it more welcoming for passengers.
The West Midlands
West Midlands Trains launched its ‘Your Community, Your Fund’ this month. Community groups and local bodies can bid for a share of £815,000 to improve local communities through rail-related projects. Transport Focus, along with other bodies including West Midlands Combined Authority and Network Rail, joined West Midlands Trains to shortlist the best initiatives.
And it’s less than three months to go till the Commonwealth Games! The work of the Grand Railway Collaboration’s customer and commercial director’s forum continues to drive improvements in customer experience through better passenger information, closer working and revenue protection – with all operators. Network Rail, West Midlands Rail Executive and Transport Focus, as founder members, are working in partnership as part of a new, revitalised strategy.
It has been a busy period also for bus. Transport for West Midlands and Linda McCord from Transport Focus gave evidence to the Parliamentary sub-committee on bus improvements and funding. Linda independently chairs the West Midlands Bus Alliance.
Transport Focus has also been working with Network Rail and other stakeholders to inform, shape and develop long-term plans for the region through our insight. This will ensure that passenger priorities are front and centre in the long-term plans for transport in the region.
It’s an exciting time at the moment after Transport for London finally launched the brand new Elizabeth Line on 24 May. This is going to make a real difference to people travelling between west and east London.
At the moment, the line is running as three separate sections until they are all connected up in the autumn. The difference in journey times is already considerable – in some places, it has been cut by over half.
Also, a 10 per cent increase in London’s rail capacity will be vital as the capital recovers from Covid. Ahead of the official opening, London TravelWatch put together a page of useful info and tips to help people using the new line for the first time, so if you’re planning to try it out soon do give it a read.
Also in May, London TravelWatch released its latest piece of rail research asking Londoners what they want from rail services in future as we transition to Great British Railways taking over running the railway. The research showed that nearly two-thirds of people said that they would be put off from using the railways if their train service was cut. Less than half of people were happy with current levels of crowding, despite this having improved since the start of the pandemic. You can read the full report here.
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