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Author Topic: Indicators for the future - as rumoured at 18.11.20  (Read 281 times)
grahame
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« on: November 22, 2020, 09:31:16 am »

TaplowGreen highlighted the challenge the railways face in following up my post that showed up a failure to service the customer during and after problems though Melksham last month.

Graham - you've illustrated one of the key problems GWR and "the railway" has - the attitude it has to its customers.

As has been discussed elsewhere, the railways face a huge challenge over the coming months and years in a changed environment with significantly less demand for its services.

Customer service culture is 100% within the control of the railways to change, and is perhaps one way in which customers can be encouraged to return and remain.

It is starting from such a low place in this respect that any improvement - like above in basic communication and a willingness to say "we got it wrong" and apologise - represents a good start.

From the Melksham Rail User Group meeting last Wednesday - spoken about in a meeting open to anyone who wished to attend (and it was a good sized group) ... so reporting here rather than in "The Rumour Mill".   Also reporting here as (!) there is no need for the automated secrecy the rail industry seems to work to.

You are so right in what you write, TaplowGreen, ... but wider indicators I have are not optimistic. 

Sources which hear views from high places, but don't always get the detail right, suggest that the next future of passenger train operation will be via management contracts overseen by an existing body - Network Rail - rather than by anything brand new which would require a bill going through parliament. Sources go on to suggest that remaining franchise roll across into the new system needs to be agreed by late January 2021, otherwise the companies running them will not qualify for ongoing government support above the contract which (in view of current decimation of farebox income) would be impractical. So that will make the following the management sequence:
1993 - 2001 Director of Passenger Rail Franchising
2001 - 2006 Strategic Railway Authority
2006 - 2021 Department for Transport (Rail)
2021 onward Network Rail

Network Rail does not have the reputation of being passenger responsive, but then it hasn't been in a customer facing role except at major stations. It does not have the reputations of being able to quickly and pragmatically respond to issues, but then its team is out very quickly when weather damage or signalling issues close a major line. And it has the reputation of having procedures and methods which are longwinded, awkward and expensive.  Having expressed those concerns, we are at time of change for Network Rail; Andrew Haines has been in charge 2 years - not sure if that's enough to change such a leviathan of an organisation against the background of "the show must go on" which is a critical overlay if trains are not to come to a halt.  Is there a likelihood that passenger service contract award and management at Network Rail would/will be a new division, very much like signal operation and capital investment are already streets apart, though under the same umbrella? And following on from that, might a new passenger service contract division of Network Rail not suffer from the same perceived issues that Network Rail suffers from?

From that same source, a comment that suggests that The Treasury is looking to reduce the financial drain that train and bus operation is having on national coffers, and that a corollary of that is that we are unlikely to see people being encouraged back to public transport by fare system changes implemented for the purpose. No change to the system in January, and "simplifications" beyond that point designed more to maximise income on the lower capacity trains and buses rather than to build traffic.  There is also the question of how much the mandarins concerned will appreciate the key use of services in remote places and at less than social hours.  Add to that, though, feedback that the need for regional services (that's trains of shorter and medium distances) outside the London commuter belt has been noted and understood, with the thinning out of London commuter services and intercity trains being more likely than other potential losses.

Getting back to culture - from where I sit, it has been disappointing to be an advocate of rail and supportive through volunteering of better services.  I appreciate that GWR have had a lot else on their mind, but the withdrawal of most opportunities to help, and of the few tokens of thanks and encouragement that they sometimes provided ("can't do that without DfT permission") seems to be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  I congratulate their former "Customer Engagement Manager" - the lady responsible for overseeing feedback and reaching out at events such as "meet the manager" - in her move and promotion within GWR, but I'm saddened that no replacement has been put in place to keep finding out what the customer wants - the role is now a vacancy and has been for some months, without even anyone being named to cover the work in an interim.  Is that how unimportant customer engagement is considered to be?  (But a thank you to friends at GWR who are perhaps informally filling in and doing an excellent job - I will only trouble you on top importance matter!)
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« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2020, 12:05:55 pm »


Network Rail does not have the reputation of being passenger responsive, but then it hasn't been in a customer facing role except at major stations. It does not have the reputations of being able to quickly and pragmatically respond to issues, but then its team is out very quickly when weather damage or signalling issues close a major line. And it has the reputation of having procedures and methods which are longwinded, awkward and expensive.  Having expressed those concerns, we are at time of change for Network Rail; Andrew Haines has been in charge 2 years - not sure if that's enough to change such a leviathan of an organisation against the background of "the show must go on" which is a critical overlay if trains are not to come to a halt.  Is there a likelihood that passenger service contract award and management at Network Rail would/will be a new division, very much like signal operation and capital investment are already streets apart, though under the same umbrella? And following on from that, might a new passenger service contract division of Network Rail not suffer from the same perceived issues that Network Rail suffers from?

Even at major stations Network Rail customer ie passenger facing is limited most is still done by TOC staff; although there is work being done to have a "one team" approach this has been in place at London Vitoria for quite a few years, NR and TOC staff still do their own distinct rolls but the branding of tabards etc is the same.
With response to incidents NR, whilst a large organisation, the Mobile Operations Managers (MOM's) can arrive quite quickly they cannot repair faulty equipment the frontline maintenance teams are quite spread out and can take time to arrive at site.

From that same source, a comment that suggests that The Treasury is looking to reduce the financial drain that train and bus operation is having on national coffers, and that a corollary of that is that we are unlikely to see people being encouraged back to public transport by fare system changes implemented for the purpose. No change to the system in January, and "simplifications" beyond that point designed more to maximise income on the lower capacity trains and buses rather than to build traffic.  There is also the question of how much the mandarins concerned will appreciate the key use of services in remote places and at less than social hours.  Add to that, though, feedback that the need for regional services (that's trains of shorter and medium distances) outside the London commuter belt has been noted and understood, with the thinning out of London commuter services and intercity trains being more likely than other potential losses.

One of the areas the Chancellor will look at will be Road Tax and Fuel Duty; may even see the introduction of Road Tax for electric car's or at leas the hint of it.  I certainly think road pricing especially on Motorways will be a feature in the future.

NR's recent re-org, Putting Passengers First and the DfT statement recently that franchising is not working; lends towards a vertically integrated railway, Scotland is likely to be first and then perhaps Wales, with other ToC and NR Routes (NR Regions are made up of Routes) being aliened into a single structure


Getting back to culture - from where I sit, it has been disappointing to be an advocate of rail and supportive through volunteering of better services.  I appreciate that GWR have had a lot else on their mind, but the withdrawal of most opportunities to help, and of the few tokens of thanks and encouragement that they sometimes provided ("can't do that without DfT permission") seems to be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  I congratulate their former "Customer Engagement Manager" - the lady responsible for overseeing feedback and reaching out at events such as "meet the manager" - in her move and promotion within GWR, but I'm saddened that no replacement has been put in place to keep finding out what the customer wants - the role is now a vacancy and has been for some months, without even anyone being named to cover the work in an interim.  Is that how unimportant customer engagement is considered to be?  (But a thank you to friends at GWR who are perhaps informally filling in and doing an excellent job - I will only trouble you on top importance matter!)

Would a vertically integrated restructured railway improve community engagement? that would very much depend on how the Government chose to structure an area / region
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« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2020, 11:31:53 pm »

From Yahoo Finance

Quote
The effective renationalisation of the railways has been accelerated after ministers put the industry?s future in the hands of Network Rail and a group of government officials, leaving private sector train operators by the wayside.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has asked Andrew Haines, the Network Rail chief, to spearhead a 30-year strategy for the railway called the ?The Whole Industry Strategic Plan? (WISP), according to leaked internal documents seen by The Telegraph.

Handing the publicly-funded organisation control of the project will exacerbate fears that the private sector has been left almost powerless to influence major reform on the railways.

Mr Haines will be joined by Sir Peter Hendy, Network Rail chairman and a key transport adviser to Boris Johnson, to oversee the WISP, alongside Polly Payne and Ruth Hannant from the Department for Transport, internal documents reveal.

Elaine Seagriff, former Transport for London strategy director, has been seconded from consultancy Jacobs.

An update on the railways is expected in this week?s Spending Review.

Industry sources were disappointed at the snubbing of bosses from train operators. ?The DfT does not have the skills and capability to make key commercial decisions,? one insider said.

A Government source said representatives have been hired to represent train operators? interests.

The long-term strategic plan is a ?key recommendation? by Keith Williams, the ex-British Airways boss who led the biggest review of the railways since the mid-Nineties.

Covid has effectively accelerated rail reform with the cancellation of franchising. However, with demand for train services remaining at less than a third of pre-pandemic levels, keeping services running is costing taxpayers up to ?700m-a-month. The Treasury is said to be pushing the Department for Transport hard to reduce the burden on the public purse.

Train operators were disappointed at revelations in The Sunday Telegraph this month that Mr Haines was being lined up to lead an all-powerful ?Fat Controller? body that will run the railways.

Dominic Booth, managing director of Abellio, told a parliamentary committee last week that he was ?surprised? that regulator the Office of Rail and Road had not been asked to lead the analysis instead.

The sidelining of the train firms comes amid a looming High Court battle with the Department for Transport. Three of Britain?s biggest transport operators ? FirstGroup, Abellio and Trenitalia ? remain locked in talks over penalty payments that could top ?500m.

A spokesman for the Government said: ?As part of preparation for the Secretary of State?s plan to reform the railways, early stages work is under way.

?This will require input from the whole rail sector, including train operators, to ensure a long-term strategy that is focused on improving services for passengers and freight.?
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« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2020, 11:40:33 pm »

So all trains will be all over yellow, network rail branding!
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Birdie100
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« Reply #4 on: Yesterday at 12:02:23 am »

2020 has been bananas enough, without 2021 literally seeing banana trains everywhere!!!
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