Resilience is vital
Angie Doll, Passenger services director for Southern and Gatwick Express, explains how modernisation is helping to create a more resilient service
We are seeing steady improvements in performance – we are now operating at levels on Gatwick Express and Southern that haven’t been possible for nearly two years, and this is fantastic to be part of.
Running a service that is operationally better has a positive impact on dwell-times, i.e. how long a train is stationary at a station. It means we can – and are – consistently offering a more resilient, right-time railway, with fewer cancellations.
Being more resilient is vital; this means that when there is a problem we can recover much quicker than we could this time last year. Reducing how long recovery processes take as we focus on our programme of modernisation has a huge impact as a few seconds at each station adds up during the course of a journey.
It is important to note that the Southern and Gatwick Express staff have continued to support customers during a tumultuous period of industrial action.
I believe that is a testament to our people that we have been able to continue to provide services, with those on the frontline consistently going above and beyond. Their support has helped us manage the dispute more effectively.
This shift has come about due to dedicated development of our frontline teams – our excellent station staff – as well as ensuring the senior team can bring a strong operational and practical voice when managing issues.
Freeing our On-Board Supervisors from the responsibility of operating the doors has been crucial in this move to provide more resilient services for passengers; we strive to give passengers the service they deserve.
Looking forward, exciting times are ahead. We are continuing with our driver training programme which will help us to create an even more robust service. This coupled with the official opening of London Bridge station is set to have a real impact on passenger journeys.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to extend my congratulations to the Gatwick Airport rail station team who have recently been shortlisted for a prestigious national award following a raft of improvements at the station.
The heart of the network
Stuart Cheshire, Passenger Services Director for Thameslink and Great Northern, explains how information and communication must be at the centre of operating a successful train network
As part of the £7bn Thameslink Programme, big changes are coming, and with them huge journey opportunities for passengers. A brand new timetable – designed from scratch and built using a new format, including a series of patterns to the existing timetable – is currently under construction, following two important consultation periods with passengers.
With implementation starting in May next year, the Great Northern and Thameslink networks will be at the heart, starting with 20 trains per hour in May and building to 24 trains per hour through the ‘Core’ part of the network during peak times by December 2018. The new timetable will bring with it extensive new journey options.
All of this work is integral to Govia Thameslink Railway’s modernisation programme. The adoption of new technology is helping us to improve operations across the business, impacting crucial parts of running the train service, i.e. customer information, working practices and safety. Better communication and support for passengers will also help us move to shorter platform stopping times, a key part of keeping our trains running to the timetable.
In the autumn, we have also continued with the upgrade project of our real-time information systems, which includes information boards at stations and on-board services.
While we call the area of London which will see this huge influx in services as part of the Thameslink Programme, ‘The Core,’ I like to think of it as the heart of our network. We need to look after this properly and ensure that all our arterial routes that feed it are in good working order.
Looking ahead, there is much to come for Great Northern and Thameslink passengers, not least with the 30 or so Class 387 trains moving over to Great Northern, bringing with them services with greater capacity, Wi-Fi and air-conditioning, as well as the ongoing investment into the Thameslink Programme.
As the raft of developments continue, we must further upskill drivers as we move trains between networks. This requires a focus on training through our driver release programme over the coming 12 months, as well as the establishment of more driver depots, located as close to the train start up points as possible, to create resilience.
We currently operate out of nine depots and are set to move to 17 to provide a more reliable service for passengers.
All of this exciting work is part of our plans to modernise our working practices, technology and infrastructure. I truly have great expectations for this next phase and feel confident knowing that we have a reliable network of staff to support passengers through this transition period; without them, we could not have taken the steps we have so far – watch this space.