New Greater Anglia rail franchise is launched around East Anglia
Abellio subsidiary Greater Anglia has begun operating its new nine-year franchise and will be the first franchise renewal in which the train operator is to replace its entire fleet with brand new trains. The fleet renewal (see p 8) will be completed by 2020 and is part of a £2bn package of improvements to be delivered through the franchise.
Other improvements include more services, faster journey times, 55% more seats into London in the morning peak period, initiatives to improve punctuality from 89% to almost 93%, £60m of station improvements, and new ticket options offering better value for money.
Improvements to be delivered in the first three years of the franchise include 72 additional carriages to provide more seats from summer 2017; free Wi-Fi; automatic delay repay compensation for season ticket holders and advance ticket holders from early in 2017; ticket vending machines at every station; new customer information screens and help points at every station; a refresh and deep clean for all stations; significant investment in reliability modifications and interior refreshes for existing trains, and more investment in customer service and the community rail partnerships.
Jamie Burles, managing director for Greater Anglia said: “This is an exciting time for the railway in our region. This is the first franchise renewal to see a train operator replace its entire fleet with brand new trains. I’m looking forward to leading Greater Anglia as we transform the railway.”
Roy Hill is seconded to HS2 and takes up the reins as interim CEO
Following the announcement last month that Simon Kirby is to leave HS2 and join Rolls Royce, Roy Hill has agreed to step in as interim CEO from 1 November, on secondment from CH2M.
He will guide the HS2 project through some significant milestones and the start of construction next year. He is well qualified for the task having previously held the position of HS2’s Phase One Development Director for approximately two years.
Meanwhile, Simon Kirby will continue in post until the end of the year. Recruitment is underway for a permanent CEO, who should be in place by next summer.
HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins said: “I’m pleased to welcome Roy Hill back to the team. His understanding of the project and the industry puts him in an excellent position to continue the significant progress made under Simon Kirby while we continue our search for a permanent CEO.”
Transport Committee instructs Ministers to ‘get a grip’ on rail franchise agreements
The Transport Select Committee has published the findings of its inquiry into the passenger rail experience. The report The future of rail: Improving the Rail Passenger Experience, says lessons must be learned from what it terms the woeful experience of passengers on Southern Railway. Rail passengers, it concludes, have been badly let down by Government failure to structure, monitor and enforce franchise agreements and the planning and management of major rail infrastructure projects.
Evidence was dominated by the problems on the Govia Thameslink Railway. The report says these can be attributed to poor management of the franchise from the beginning; inadequate staffing; rolling stock issues, mismanagement and prolonged industrial action, complicated by the Thameslink infrastructure programme.
The report then considers whether GTR was in default of its contractual obligations. Scrutiny of GTR’s performance against its contractual obligations, however, has been made more difficult by lack of access to essential information, and the Committee is calling for this information to be made publicly available.
The Committee concludes that the DfT’s claim that no other operator could do a better job in the circumstances is no longer credible.
Recommendations include: introducing an automatic compensation scheme immediately; replacing the public satisfaction rating system and public performance measure with more effective ones by summer 2017; DfT should refine information gathering mechanisms on overcrowding, and develop a more coherent strategy for tackling the issue; a strategy to provide network-wide smart ticketing by April 2017; ATOC/RDG to provide websites and apps to improve the passenger experience; improved information from National Rail Enquiries including delays and/or disruptions.
Charles Horton, chief executive of GTR, said: “We recognise and fully accept that our service on parts of the GTR franchise has not been good enough … but we’ve committed to making things better.
“GTR has submitted claims for force majeure to the DfT caused by the unprecedented industrial action and we have co-operated fully with what’s been asked of us at all times. We have been in discussions with the DfT to agree what and how they wanted to allow them to assess and evaluate our claims. It’s an extremely detailed process which the report accepts is complex and painstaking.”
NTAR launches new apprenticeship standard
The National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR) has adopted the Rail Engineering Technician Trailblazer Apprenticeship Standard, which was developed over two years by industry employers including TfL, Network Rail, South west Trains, and Siemens. It has been part of the successful Siemens-SWT apprentice training programme, now in its third year, and aims to provide apprentices with technical, professional and occupational competence in rail engineering.
The three-stage training programme will teach apprentices the fundamentals of engineering while also covering advanced subjects, including project management and rail-specific units such as passenger comfort and traction conversion. The final stage will place apprentices in the workplace, where they will develop further business-specific skills and complete their end point assessment.
ATOC and RDG become one
The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) have adopted the single name, Rail Delivery Group, to create greater clarity and a stronger identity. The name change doesn’t affect funding or activities carried out by the former ATOC, but will enable the organisation to provide more coherent support to rail operating companies and a stronger voice for its members.
To be a train driver?
More than 15,000 candidates have responded to Virgin Trains’ recruitment drive for train drivers for its new Azuma fleet. With just 78 jobs on offer this equates to nearly 200 applications per post. The new drivers will work from depots between London and Edinburgh and are due to start a year-long development programme in January 2017.
A first for Huddersfield
The University of Huddersfield, home of the Institute of Railway Research, has installed a multimillion pound test rig which is the only one of its type in Europe. The 150-ton test rig will enable in-depth investigation on a full sized bogie of many issues surrounding the contact area between wheel and rail.
ScotRail improvement plan
The ScotRail Alliance has published a detailed plan to improve service performance. This includes an £8m asset improvement programme, tailored upgrades for key parts of the network and for rolling stock, identification, monitoring and protection of the ‘Golden Trains’ that, if delayed, have the biggest impact on the rail network. It will also improve the way trains are staffed and operated.
New station navigation app
Virgin Trains has launched a global first in rail travel technology with its new Explorer app which helps customers navigate their way around stations. The app includes real-time positioning, navigation for the visually impaired, messaging capability and baggage tracking as well as real time automatic sign translation for international customers.
Offer received for GB Railfreight
EQT Infrastructure II has made a binding and irrevocable offer for GB Railfreight, bringing the sale of the UK’s third largest rail freight operator a step closer. The offer will now be considered by the Eurotunnel Group. The group acquired GBRf in 2010 for £25m and has more than doubled its activities, significantly improving its profitability.
Eurotunnel enjoys 4% growth
Group Eurotunnel has published figures for Q3 2016 that reveal a 4% growth over the same quarter last year. Shuttle revenues rose by 12% , truck shuttle traffic grew by 14% and passenger shuttle traffic rose by 2%. Eurostar traffic, however, declined by 10%. CEO Jacques Gounon said: “The Group is well placed for the sustained period of growth in the UK economy forecast by the IMF and the Bank of England.”
Ricardo to develop first Repoint
A consortium led by Ricardo Rail is to develop and install the first Repoint, a new ultra-high reliability railway point system designed by Loughborough University, on the London Underground in early 2018. The design uses several actuators to operate the same points, so should a single actuator fail the remaining ones continue to function safely.