Avanti West Coast: Focused on improving the passenger experience
In an interview with Global Railway Review, Richard Scott, Partnerships and Strategy Director for the West Coast Partnership, reflects on the last few weeks since the launch of Avanti West Coast services in the UK, and explains what the operator will focus on, going forward, to deliver a better passenger experience.
What main challenges has Avanti West Coast had to overcome in the first few weeks since taking over the franchise?
It’s really been business as usual. We had a good foundation to build on from the previous franchise, and most of the people in the business are the same, so they’ve been getting on with the same challenges as normal – the busy festive season, engineering works and so on.
We also had our two launch events in December 2019, which were a great success and started to give people across the network a real flavour of the new Avanti West Coast brand.
Within the business, we’ve kept our people as informed and up to date as possible through our internal communications team. And we have channels like Yammer – an internal social network – for our people to raise any issues that they see.
How will you ensure your fleet of trains provide an enhanced passenger experience?
We’re giving our famous Pendolino fleet a new lease of life by bringing them back to an as-new condition. The improvements will enhance the experience of passengers and those who work on-board, and will ensure the fleet can continue to serve communities up and down the West Coast Main Line in the years ahead.
We’re giving our famous Pendolino fleet a new lease of life by bringing them back to an as-new condition.
The Pendolino trains will be completely refurbished, with new and improved seats across the fleet, better lighting, new carpets, more luggage space, power points at all seats, and improved toilets. We also plan to invest in faster and more reliable free Wi-Fi.
We’re also replacing our Voyager fleet with new trains which will help us to improve the experience for customers with more services, more seats, a better journey experience and added comfort.
What plans do you have for investing in your stations?
We’re going to invest in our stations with refreshed waiting rooms, better customer facilities, more car park spaces, cycle facilities and greater accessibility for passengers with additional travel needs. This includes new First Class Lounges at Preston, Stockport and Rugby, additional seating, 900 more parking spaces across the network and the installation of Changing Places toilets at four stations.
What are your plans concerning introducing more services and a simplified ticketing structure?
We are currently developing our major timetable change for 2022, which will deliver 263 extra services each week
We are currently developing our major timetable change for 2022, which will deliver 263 extra services each week, offering more direct services and serving new destinations. We are looking to offer additional earlier and later services to a wider range of destinations, so we improved the spacing of services along busy routes. Of course, customers and stakeholders will have a chance to contribute to the consultation and our final proposals will be subject to agreement with other rail operators, the ORR and Network Rail.
Our major timetable change in 2022 will:
- Double Liverpool’s frequency to two trains per hour all day
- Serve new destinations, such as Liverpool South Parkway
- Launch direct intercity trains from London to Walsall and Gobowen
- Offer additional services to Llandudno (from December 2020).
We plan to introduce a range of initiatives to make tickets easier to understand. Our plans for simpler, more flexible fares and smart ticketing will allow our customers to exchange or amend tickets bought from one channel on any other. Since we arrived on 8 December 2019, we have improved compensation for when things go wrong – for example, with Delay Repay 15, which offers compensation for customers if their journey is delayed by 15 minutes or more at their destination.
What investments will you make to ensure your services are accessible for all?
We are committed to increasing and improving accessibility at our stations and on-board our services.
We are committed to increasing and improving accessibility at our stations and on-board our services. We have recruited a dedicated Accessibility and Inclusion Manager, working with stakeholders and customers to make improvements. We will soon be creating both network-wide and regional pan-disability user panels to recommend projects and improvements. The panels will also provide feedback on the refurbishment designs for our Pendolino trains. In addition, we will be carrying out accessibility and wayfinding audits at stations, with recommendations focusing on how we can ensure each location is accessible for all. We will also be installing Changing Places toilets at four stations and bringing in accessible ticket desks.
What will you focus on most to ensure passengers receive a reliable and punctual train service?
We know how important reliability and punctuality is to our customers and it is a key focus at Avanti West Coast. Our alliance with Network Rail is designed to drive collaborative working and improve customer experience. Working together to identify vulnerabilities and areas for improvement on the West Coast Main Line will enable us to mitigate the impact on reliability and punctuality, and help us to be better prepared and respond more quickly.
How do you plan to stay customer focused and engaged with your passengers?
Our focus is always on the customer and we want to give them a voice in shaping future improvements.
Our focus is always on the customer and we want to give them a voice in shaping future improvements. Part of this ongoing commitment is that we intend to create independently chaired regional customer panels.
How will Avanti West Coast play a part in protecting the environment?
We have numerous targets to reduce our environmental impact encompassing carbon, energy, water and waste.
We cannot be a sustainable transport operator without protecting our environment. We have numerous targets to reduce our environmental impact, encompassing carbon, energy, water and waste. The new fleet will replace our diesel Voyager trains with a mixture of electric and bi-mode trains, substantially reducing our carbon footprint. We will also be exploring the recyclability of the packaging from the products we serve on-board.
How important is it for Avanti West Coast to invest in its workforce, and how would you describe the organisation’s approach to diversity?
At Avanti West Coast, our people are our greatest asset and, to ensure staff engagement, we need to continually invest in them. We understand that people perform better when they can be themselves, and diverse teams lead to better business outcomes. A diverse workforce also means that we can better support all our customers, by anticipating and understanding their needs.
Franchising, Operational Performance, Passenger Experience/Satisfaction, Rail Fares/Ticket Pricing, Rolling Stock Orders/Developments, Smart/Contactless Ticketing, Sustainability/Decarbonisation, The Workforce, Timetabling/Scheduling