Leading the way

Since previously appearing in Railway Strategies during February 2016, Metrolink RATP Dev Ltd. has continued to focus on the delivery of an unrivalled level of service to millions of passengers

Operating as a wholly-owned subsidiary of RATP Dev, Metrolink RATP Dev Ltd. is tasked with operating and maintaining the Greater Manchester tram network between 2011 until 2017 under the terms of its contract with Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), the city’s transport authority. RATP Dev is a global urban transport company that employs more than 4500 staff in the UK and further to operating Greater Manchester’s busy Metrolink; the group also maintains significant coach operations across the UK, operating a significant proportion (approx. 1000) of London’s buses as part of this. RATP Dev is also the market leader in open top sightseeing buses in London, Bath, Windsor and Cardiff through its The Original Tour business.
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“Our parent company, RATP Group is the fifth largest transport company in the world with operations in 15 countries across five continents. RATP Dev is keen to increase its UK market share, but it is a worldwide organisation and is constantly seeking out new opportunities. As of 2016 the Group has opened a new tramline in Rio de Janeiro, in time for the Olympic Games,” says Metrolink RATP Dev Managing Director, Chris Coleman. “The group has also partnered with businesses in the United Arab Emirates to explore opportunities in Abu Dhabi. Whatever ventures RATP Dev undertakes, we know it’s crucial to work in partnership with organisations in local markets – coupling their local expertise with our transport sector expertise.”

Within the UK, Greater Manchester’s Metrolink represents the country’s largest tram system, overseeing 35 million passenger journeys a year, or approximately 95,000 a day. As of 2016 the system covers 93 stops across 100km of network with a total of 120 vehicles and while managing a complicated network that sees continual changes, Metrolink RATP Dev is very focused on delivering constant improvements in customer satisfaction, and the latest results from the Passenger Focus survey for light rail found an overall satisfaction rating of 89 per cent (up from 85 per cent in 2014 and 83 per cent in 2013).

While delivering a network that can cope with rising passenger numbers, Metrolink RATP Dev is also working on the development of new initiatives including a planned Second City Crossing (2CC). “The Second City Crossing leaves Victoria Station and travels along Corporation Street to a new stop at Exchange Square. Services will continue along Cross Street and Princess Street to run metrolink-138-cthrough the major new stop recently completed in St Peter’s Square. For customers, it will also improve access by tram into the heart of the city, connecting both the new lines and people across Greater Manchester,” Chris explains. “For us as the operator of Metrolink, it will play a vital role in providing the necessary capacity, flexibility and reliability to operate the network. For example, there are 798 departures from St Peter’s Square per day (weekday), which represents 50 departures per hour equating to a tram every 80 seconds through St Peter’s Square. Because there is only one route through the city, if we were to experience disruption or during special events, our options are limited in terms of what service we provide. The second crossing will allow the flexibility to divert services through this additional route and hopefully reduce the impact of the disruption on our customers’ journeys. This is a natural next step for the network as the introduction of 2CC is required to facilitate the future growth of the system as Metrolink continues to expand into new areas of Greater Manchester. TfGM also recently announced that all construction work on 2CC will be completed by the end of this year and we’ll launch the new route in 2017.”

While it supports TfGM in its ambition to increase capacity by delivering operational changes, Metrolink RATP Dev also works to ensure the highest levels of safety and is proud of its record in this area. “In the past 12-18 months we’ve demonstrated our commitment to safety at the company with the appointment of a new Director of Safety and Quality, Janet Ault, who joined the board of directors last August. She brings with her a wealth of experience from working in the UK bus industry and this has helped to bolster our safety reputation even further,” Chris says. “Janet has been instrumental in helping us achieve BS OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety; ISO 9001 Quality Management System certifications; and ISO 14001 Environmental Management certifications. It’s also worth noting that in 2015, we also achieved a four-star rating for business excellence as part of our EFQM accreditation.”

With the change in government in the wake of EU Referendum result and the continued development of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ project, Metrolink RATP Dev will continue to expand its services in what is potentially a highly dynamic market. “RATP Dev is excited about its future in the UK. The EU referendum will mean major change in the UK and further afield but we are confident that we have a strong offer of partnership for anyone who wants to work with us. We work hard to foster good relationships with all levels of government. Currently much of RATP’s business in the UK is bus subsidiaries. So the passage of the Bus Services Bill is really important to our business. RATP Dev welcomes the move to devolve more powers to local authorities to direct local bus services. However, we have real concerns that attempts to alter the Bill before it is enacted will undermine the intention to drive a better service for passengers and to provide local authorities with greater control over the strategic direction of urban transport in their area,” Chris details.

“The north of England is a market we are very interested in and devolution of power to Metro Mayors will, we hope, give us the opportunity to contribute to the development of economies across the north of England, at local and regional levels. In terms of the day-to-day operation, our people will continue to deliver on our vision of ‘Leading the way by providing an excellent customer experience in transport’ for the 95,000 customers that travel on Metrolink each day. The future expansion of the network through 2CC is planned for 2017 along with the conversion of the signalling system on the Bury line to TMS and we are also working with TfGM on the future Trafford Park line, which has just been given approval by the Government to proceed,” he concludes. “I feel really passionately that what we’ve delivered under RATP Dev – we were named Operator of the Year at the Light Rail Awards 2016 and also shortlisted at the North of England Transport Awards in December. I believe our success over the past 12 months can only be attributed to the fantastic people we have working for us, who give everything to Metrolink. Their loyalty and commitment to what we do never cease to impress me.”