Preparing for major changes

Control Centre communications were critical during the August 2016 to January 2018 blockade

Background to the changes

August 2016 saw a new phase of the Thameslink Programme begin, which resulted in significant, medium-term temporary changes (through to January 2018 in some cases) for Southeastern passengers including;

  • Most Charing Cross trains resumed stopping at London Bridge, except in the “contra-peak” directions during weekday peak periods
  • Cannon Street trains no longer stopped at London Bridge
  • Cannon Street was closed between 27 August 2016 and 1 September 2016 inclusive – this included three “normal” working days.

Given the scale of the changes, Southeastern needed to ramp up their passenger communications. This case study document sets out the actions that needed to be carried out by the Information Team within the Kent Integrated Control Centre (KICC).

Twitter – Example

Regular tweets, no less than twice daily, to continue until the 1 September 2016, covering the key messages;

  • Major changes to London Bridge & Cannon Street services from August 2016
  • We strongly recommend you consider changing your journey to work between 30 August 2016 until 1 September 2016
  • Cannon Street trains will not stop at London Bridge from Friday 26 August until January 2018
  • Most Charing Cross services will resume stopping at London Bridge from Monday 29 August 2016
  • The changes to contra-peak services at London Bridge on weekdays from Tuesday 30 August (AM services away from London not calling at London Bridge in evening peak).

All tweets should link to the dedicated page on the website: southeasternrailway.co.uk/august (example)

OIS (Operations Information Screens) – Example

Southeastern had a series of animated films to show on OIS and NOIS which were on display from the 8th July 2016.

On OIS, these were scheduled to rotate on all Southeastern displays until the end of August 2016.

On NOIS (OIS around the network for staff), the videos needed to be manually rotated each week at all passenger-facing displays with the exception of Paddock Wood. (Separate tasks were created for this in Microsoft Outlook).

CIS (Customer Information Screens) – Example

A generic notice was created and displayed at all stations that had trains to either Cannon Street or Charing Cross. This was shown on weekdays only thus leaving the displays free for weekend engineering work information. This notice included advice about the period between 27 August 2016 and 1 September 2018 when there were no Southeastern trains to Cannon Street

The notice remained in situ until the start of the August Bank Holiday weekend 2016.

From Tuesday 30 August 2016 until 1 September 2018, a CIS notice was on display at all stations that would normally have a service to Cannon Street, to remind passengers about the withdrawal of Cannon Street services and warning that others may be busy.

During the Bank Holiday weekend itself, normal engineering work notices were on display, although if space allowed then reference was made to the extended closure of Cannon Street (as well as Deptford, Greenwich, Westcombe Park & Maze Hill).

Between Monday 22nd and Friday 26th August 2016 inclusive, a block edit was made in the CIS to add a platform comment to all trains with a destination of Cannon Street which stated:

“Remember – no trains to Cannon Street, 27 Aug – 01 Sep, please check”.

Announcements – Example

An announcement was recorded and scheduled at all stations that had trains to either Cannon Street or Charing Cross (except Waterloo East) for broadcast on weekdays, until the start of the August Bank Holiday weekend, with a frequency of every 14 minutes.

The wording was:

“From late August, the next phase of the Thameslink Programme will start which means major changes to London Bridge and Cannon Street services, with no trains to Cannon Street between 27 August and 1 September. For more information, visit southeasternrailway.co.uk/august” (example).

During the Bank Holiday weekend itself, standard engineering announcements should be in place and include reference to the extended closure of Cannon Street.

Between the 30th August and 1st September 2016, announcements were made at all stations that would normally have a service to Cannon Street, to remind passengers about the withdrawal of Cannon Street services and warning that others may be busy.

On Track app, “Push” notifications – Example

A notification was in place after Monday 4 July 2016 and was repeated every Monday until Monday 22nd August 2016 inclusive, alternating between the morning and evening. Notifications can only be sent at 06:30 and 16:30 containing a suitable generic message in line with the CIS message and announcement.

A further notification was sent on Friday 26 August 2016 in the afternoon (16:30) and again on Tuesday 27 August 2016 (AM), and this message strongly reinforced the message about the withdrawal of Cannon Street services from 30th August until the 1st September 2016 inclusive.

On Track app, banner message – Example

An app banner was in place from Monday 25 July 2016 (and updated on 3 August) and remained in place until the start of the August Bank holiday weekend stating:

“No Cannon Street trains Saturday 27 August to Thursday 1 September – Charing Cross and Victoria services will be very busy – allow more time and be prepared for queues.

Check in advance how your journey will be affected by this and major changes in the new Southeastern timetable from Sunday 28 August 2016. For full details please visit our Thameslink Programme information page”

The URL that this message pointed to was http://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/your-journey/about-thameslink-programme/august-2016/ (No longer live)

If this message was removed because of disruption, it was replaced with the above text as quickly as possible.

During the Bank Holiday weekend itself, the banner message was updated to reflect the work taking place and the withdrawal of services at Charing Cross & Cannon Street until the Sunday, and then the ongoing closure of Cannon street until 1st September inclusive.

Onboard announcements – Example

A suitable announcement was provided for Conductors / On Board Managers, for broadcast from Wednesday 7 July until Friday 19 August 2016 by the Passenger Information Manager.

An updated announcement was provided for broadcast between 22 and 26 August 2016 advising of the amended services at London Bridge during contra-peak periods.

One result of the August changes was that the following stations lost all their direct services to London Bridge until 2018;

Broadstairs, Dumpton Park, Margate, Westgate-on-Sea, Birchington, Herne Bay, Chestfield & Swalecliffe, Whitstable, Faversham and Sittingbourne.

This affected the following train services;

  • London bound: 1G87, 1G91, 1G93, 1G95
  • Country bound: 1G85, 1G89, 1G91, 1G93, 1G95

Between Monday 22 and Friday 26 August 2016, an email was sent to the Conductors working the above trains, 1 hour prior to departure time from origin, with a request to make the following announcement prior to arrival at / departure from London Bridge;

  • London bound services:

“We’d like to remind you that after the 26th August, this train will no longer stop at London Bridge. The easiest way to reach London Bridge will be to remain on the train to Cannon Street and make your way from there”

  • Country bound services:

“We’d like to remind you that after the 26th August, this train will no longer stop at London Bridge. The easiest way to catch this train in future will be to make your way to Cannon Street and board it there”.

National Rail email alerts – Example

 

Network Rail was asked to send an email alert to all subscribers affected by the changes in August.

The first alert was sent on Monday 4 July 2016 and was repeated on Monday 1 August 2016.

Actions Summary

  1. Key challenges

  • Understanding all forms of communications and which to concentrate efforts on
  • Understanding the audience
  • Knowing the details of the changes as early on as possible
  • Scheduling the time to design, plan and implement the changes alongside business as usual activities.
  1. Recommendations for future projects

The following recommendations, based on the direct experiences of the Network Rail and the Train Operating Companies involved, will result in a more operationally focussed delivery of infrastructure changes:

  • Use all forms of communications; make the content interesting and fun – make the audience take notice
  • Design the communications materials to target the audiences; different audiences react better to different types of communications
  • Understand the changes early on
  • Involve Control
  • Take time to plan.

 

Case Study produced by Anne Clark, Network Rail Project Manager, April 2019.

Further information

For more information on this Learning Legacy case study please email contact@thameslinkprogramme.co.uk

Case study