What a journey!
London Midland’s new direct award franchise began in April of this year. From now until October 2017 the train operator will be investing over £10 million based on one idea; to make travel simple – for everyone.
London Midland was created to improve services following major investment in the West Coast Main Line. The franchise started in 2007 and runs from London to Liverpool and across the West Midlands.
Benefits came quickly as London Midland invested in more trains and a new timetable making better journeys possible. In 2012 London Midland speeded-up its Class 350 trains to run at 110 mph. The reduced journey times gave passengers a real choice when travelling long distances. The train company also introduced three new trains per hour between London and Birmingham. This service now carries one-in-three of all passengers between the two cities.
In the last nine years passengers have benefited from the government’s National Stations Improvement Plan and almost £1/4 billion being spent on new and refurbished trains. Four new stations have been built on the network. This is in addition to improved accessibility and £11.5 million invested delivering new customer information systems, automatic gates and ticket vending machines, 1,000 new and refurbished bicycle spaces, and 1,000 more car parking spaces on the West Coast using innovative car par deck designs.
With train performance at its best for some three years, London Midland recently ran a campaign thanking its passengers for rating the company 86% for customer satisfaction. This is the third consecutive rise in satisfaction in the survey run by the official rail watchdog – Transport Focus.
This has been quite a turnaround for a franchise that, in 2012, was making headlines for high levels of train cancellations. So what has been behind this transformation?
In 2012 London Midland launched a programme to tackle head-on the key issues which were impacting performance. The focus was on getting the basics right. This meant getting the right people and systems in place to deliver a quality and consistent service day-in day-out. Renewed emphasis was placed on re-building trust with customers. The company took a new approach to listening more to its stakeholders, passengers and staff, to be more open and to challenge the status quo.
Today London Midland carries 75 million passenger journeys per year – a rise of around 40% since 2007. With the direct award in place, there are more improvements to come. The company has launched a major investment programme under the title “Travel Made Simple”.
Among the improvements, passengers will be able to benefit from additional evening services on the West Coast and Abbey Lines, earlier Sunday services into Birmingham, free WIFI on class 350 trains and more efficient click and collect and contactless payment services. There will also be more investment in supporting communities and apprenticeship schemes.
You could say London Midland has come a long way since 2007. But we refuse to be complacent and are working ever harder to increase passenger satisfaction.