Preparing for the future
Run by Go-Ahead Group, the Southeastern franchise is investing more than £70 million in enhancing operations for the future while also delivering tremendous continual improvement with regards punctuality, performance and customer service
As one of the busiest and biggest National Rail operators in the country, Southeastern is responsible for the running of more than 2000 passenger trains on weekdays, 1755 in Saturdays and 967 on Sunday and the management of 166 stations and serving of 174 stations. With 170 million passengers to transport safely and efficiently across its network per year, the franchise is wholly focused on passenger satisfaction and is the second most improved company in the UK for customer service across all industry sectors. This commitment can be seen in the tremendous improvements with regards to meeting punctuality targets, with Southeastern going from 84 per cent punctuality in November 2016 to 94.2 per cent in April 2017.
Looking at the developments that have taken place since the franchise was previously featured in Railway Strategies magazine in June 2016 is David Statham, Managing Director of Southeastern: “We’ve been working hard over the last year to improve performance, make information more accessible to our passengers and generally improve the services those who travel with us receive. The latest National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) result is a useful measure showing how we are performing in the eyes of our passengers and we have seen a significant uplift in passenger contact related NRPPS scores. Our overall customer satisfaction result is now at a three-year high, which shows the steady stream of improvements that we are bringing in are having a positive effect.”
Indeed, the National Rail Passenger Survey shows that thanks to ongoing enhancements to the parts of the network that matter most to passengers, Southeastern’s customer satisfaction score has risen to 77 per cent, up from 69 per cent in the most recent survey in 2016.
Thinking back to notable developments that have taken place, David continues: “We launched our smart card – The Key – in December 2016 at Sevenoaks station, which gives passengers an easier way to purchase tickets online and at stations; this makes it quicker for people to get through the barriers, and also reduces the number of duplicate tickets requested. And we’ve also introduced new customer service ambassadors at two of our London Terminals, Charing Cross and Cannon Street, and are looking to roll out more ambassadors out at other stations.”
He clearly states that the £70 million Southeastern committed to investing in services when it was awarded the Direct Award will continue. “And we have seen it in place in areas such as Snodland where the ticket office was recently opened after a 30-year closure and the operator is investing in a brand-new station at Strood which will open later this year. There is also ongoing work at local stations, including renovation work at Herne Hill station, and more (better) real-time information available to staff and passengers through mobile devices and more customer information screens at stations.”
David says: “We’re motivated by the improvements we’ve seen, however, there is more to do including work on the nationwide £50 billion-plus Railway Upgrade Plan – the biggest programme of improvement in rail in more than 150 years. As such, work has continued at London Bridge, which will ease congestion and therefore reduce delays into and out of the station.” This is taking place on the eastern approaches to London Bridge, where there will be a new railway junction, the Bermondsey Dive Under (BDM), which will untangle the tracks and relieve the bottleneck of trains. Developed as part of the Thameslink Programme, the BDM will allow trains travelling from Kent to dive under the Sussex lines used by Southern and Thameslink trains, which will increase resilience and reduce delays to improve the travel experience for millions of passengers travelling to and through London Bridge.”
As part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan, the Thameslink Programme will see journeys on some of the busiest routes in the country improved with new spacious trains every two-to-three minutes through Central London at peak times, which will help Network Rail and operators to meet the huge increase in demand for train travel. Once complete, the Thameslink Programme will provide relief for busy underground routes, particularly the Northern Line, and provide more reliable journeys to passengers.
Alongside these developments, there is investment in the future of the network, the TOC has refurbished a third of its trains, placed £2 million investment in 32 new ticket machines and will introduce Wi-Fi to its commuter saturated network by 2018.
Having introduced 500 extra services, as well as Britain’s first domestic high speed service, since starting the franchise in 2006 there have been successes and with Go-Ahead recently shortlisted to bid for the Southeastern franchise by the Department of Transport, the opportunity to deliver further improvements to rail services in the south east could soon become reality.