Transport User Voice – March 2023 – Around Great Britain
28 February 2023
Wales, Scotland, and the West Midlands
Improving rail replacement services
Significant rail improvement work across the network in Wales in recent months has been impacting passenger journeys – and rail replacement services have sometimes fallen below the standards that passengers expect.
Issues such as the lack of timely clear information about trains that are running, overcrowding of services, and the reliability of amended timetables have all affected passengers, particularly as they rely on rail for making essential journeys such as work, school runs, and hospital appointments.
Transport Focus has been pressing Transport for Wales (TfW), to ensure these issues are resolved. A TfW working group is looking at where things have gone wrong, and how delivery can be improved. The group will use good practice from other train companies as well. We will continue to monitor the situation over the coming months as the improvement works continue.
We are also working with Great Western Railway (GWR) and have emphasised that train companies must be working together to support passengers for the forthcoming South Wales engineering work.
Launching new trains in Llandudno
Passengers are already benefiting from new trains on the Welsh network. Transport Focus was at the launch event in Llandudno event where we heard about the transformation of the network in Wales and increased investment in new trains enabling more passengers to be carried in comfort.
The class 197 trains are made by CAF and assembled in Newport. They offer customers improved comfort with new seats, modern air conditioning, customer information screens, charging points, wider doors, and fully accessible toilets.
The trains were launched by TfW chief executive James Price, and Minister for rural affairs and North Wales Lesley Griffiths and will be introduced first on the Conwy Valley line in North Wales. They will also form the backbone of long-distance services in North Wales and the Marches. The new rolling stock means much-needed investment in the Welsh railway, providing a more reliable and value for money experience.
Our recent research has found that passengers’ top two priorities for the railway – well ahead of others – are train tickets offering value for money and reliability, and punctuality. Scottish ministers have recently announced their plans for improvements in both these areas.
- The publication of the requirements for the rail industry – the High-Level Output Specification (HLOS) – for Control Period 7 (1 April 2024 to 31 March 2029) includes recommendations for the improvement of the passenger experience including a high performing, accessible railway with competitive and improving journey times.
- This is coupled with the announcement, during the Scottish Parliament’s December’s budget debate, of a pilot in the next financial year to suspend peak rail fares on ScotRail. The pilot aims to make rail travel more affordable and attractive to potential passengers. We’re pleased that ministers are listening to passenger’s feedback and are supportive of fares initiatives to get more people travelling by train.
Our research with passengers shows that how stations are managed are a key part of the customer experience, and the next HLOS will require major stations in Scotland to use the same passenger satisfaction targets as ScotRail and the Caledonian Sleeper. This means the passenger experience will be monitored and targets set for the whole Scottish rail network on issues including dealing with disruption.
Collaboration has been the key word in the West Midlands in the last month. Our partnerships with West Midlands Trains and Network Rail have been looking at improvements that could be implemented from our ‘What matters most to rail passengers’ insight work.
This has included overlaying our passenger experience insight and the Service Quality Regime (SQR) to provide more information on priorities across the network. This work will underpin West Midlands Trains’ plans for the future.
A co-ordinated programme of targeted enforcement communications and information have helped partners across the West Midlands raise awareness of the recent increase to penalty fare charges.
Transport Focus has had its say on proposals from the West Midlands Combined Authority for further investment in the Midlands Rail Hub and the Central route being developed by Network Rail.
And finally….for those impressed by the amazing Raging Bull animatronic installation built as part of the Commonwealth Games celebrations last year – they will be pleased that its new home will be Birmingham New Street station from June this year.
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