Throughout the Thameslink Programme the top priority was to look after customers
This was done through:
- maintaining train service capacity wherever possible
- understanding the touch points prior to, during and after journeys
- identifying the best journey options
- providing an excellent communications campaign covering each stage of the programme
- highlighting the benefits achieved – ‘This is why… ‘
- providing ticket acceptance on alternative routes and types of transport
- recruiting additional staff to assist during the major engineering works
- encouraging volunteers from the Train Operating Companies (TOCs), Network Rail and Department for Transport to assist.
Maintaining train service capacity where possible
For each of the stages of the programme which required changes in train services both during engineering works and post the network changes, the TOCs and Network Rail focused on passenger numbers and journeys with emphasis on the peak hours of travel to develop timetables providing required capacity.
Major timetable changes, for example the Charing Cross run-throughs, where trains to Charing Cross did not stop at London Bridge station between January 2015 and August 2016 and the Cannon Street run-throughs, where trains to Cannon Street did not stop at London Bridge station between 29 August 2016 to January 2018 were fully consulted along with the May 2018 timetable changes. A marketing campaign ‘Times are changing’ was run;
This covers details of the Southeastern May 2018 Timetable Consultation Response.
Customer Journey Mapping
One technique used successfully for the latter stages of the programme was Customer Journey Mapping. This used workshops to discuss all ‘touch points’ – that is, wherever a customer makes a decision on travel and meets with a form of communication. For each stage of the journey the following questions were answered:
- What have we planned?
- What will the challenges be?
- Key people & roles
From these work groups, Customer Charters were developed for each major station. An example worked through for Victoria station for the December 2017 blockade is shown below:
Additional staff to assist with customer service
The importance of understanding the impacts of the Thameslink Programme on all stations was recognised early on. Where customers might change their travel patterns, stations that may not immediately spring to mind as being impacted became apparent. Following extensive analysis of passenger numbers and travel patterns at the following stations were identified as requiring extra support during the major engineering blockades:
Dartford, Greenwich, Hither Green, Ladywell, Lewisham, London Bridge, London Cannon Street, London Charing Cross, New Cross, Orpington, Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Waterloo East.
Other London termini including Victoria, Blackfriars and Waterloo International (where Southeastern train services were re-routed for two of the engineering blocks) were also allocated additional staff. Staff at stations where services were reduced were reassigned to other stations and volunteers recruited to assist with customer service and supporting the permanent staff.
The following is an example of the detailed analysis and recommendations for agency staff at Cannon Street station:
Volunteers were also recruited to provide customer service and give out information. They provided essential support to local staff allowing staff to carry out safety checks and other important duties. The volunteers received help and guidance for their roles with training where appropriate and local inductions. Having head office staff assist at stations not only provided much appreciated support to the station teams but helped the volunteers understand better what life is like working out at stations.
Alternative travel options and ticket acceptance
The Train Operating Companies worked well with London Underground Ltd (LUL) and various bus operators to identify where extra services were required and what was possible for ticket acceptance. Where a customer was routed to a different station to that required e.g. Cannon Street where they wanted Charing Cross, they had the option of catching the underground. For those who did not have a travelcard, their tickets were accepted for this part of the journey.
The principle adhered to was that ‘where through no option to the customer, they had to travel via an alterative route or ended up at a station which was not their required destination’, they should not be out of pocket to complete their journey. Detailed communications covered the scenarios with the appropriate briefing being given to all transport operators’ staff.
Where train services between New Cross station and Cannon Street station were suspended, London Underground stations at which National Rail tickets were accepted were: Victoria, Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Waterloo, Southwark, Bank, Monument, London Bridge and North Greenwich.
- Key challenges
- Balancing the ‘what is possible’ vs the ‘what is required’
- Enabling everyone the opportunity to be consulted with
- Protecting the train services that are operating as far as possible
- Understanding the customer – they did not always behave the way that was expected
- Managing the number of agency staff and volunteers – recruiting, training, behaviours and supervising
- Consistent messaging; briefing other Train Operators and LUL. Making sure messages were relayed to staff
- Making it simple for customers.
- 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:
Early consultation on proposed timetable changes with responses to anyone who asks questions to explain reasoning for decisions.
- Keep looking at options to provide some type of train service e.g. single line working.
- Use mystery shoppers to provide feedback and identify areas for improvement.
- Keep a log of feedback and review after each main event using to improve service and training in the future.
- Understand who the decision makers are.
- Key messages and scripts to be agreed centrally and used for communications – ask parties to confirm that all staff are briefed.
Case Study produced by Anne Clark, Network Rail Project Manager, April 2019.
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