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- Meet the Directors
As part of our commitment to be open and honest with you, we've summarised all the issues that have been raised at our Meet the Director sessions and posted them here:
Session took place at Manchester Oxford Road - 7 March 2013. Lead Director Jonathan Stewart was on hand to answer your questions. Below is a summary of the issues that were raised:
Lead Director - Jonathan Stewart
This was a general topic of discussion, with the main concerns raised being about services which usually run with four carriages, which are reduced to two or three carriages causing overcrowding on routes meaning many customers are unable to get a seat and in extreme circumstances customers are unable to board the train.
Jonathan explained “Firstly, I would like to apologise to customers who are experiencing overcrowding on their services. The Northern franchise has attracted a growth of over 40.52% since 2004, which unfortunately was not foreseen by the authorities awarding the contract, meaning the franchise was let on the basis of no provision for additional carriages. We work very closely with our industry partners, including the Department for Transport and Transport for Greater Manchester to help secure carriages where possible. In 2011 we introduced 50 additional carriages, which provided two million extra seats across the network every year. We targeted these at our busiest services to help alleviate overcrowding on these routes.
Our planning team work hard to ensure we cover peak routes where possible to meet customer demand; unfortunately we have a limited number of carriages available within Northern and as an industry nationwide. When planning services we also need to consider available crew resource, location of our depots and crew knowledge of different traction types.
We know we haven’t eradicated overcrowding and we know you understand there is no quick fix. We continue to monitor our services and work with our industry partners to ensure the services with the greatest need receive the carriages they require."
Customers asked why there has been no investment in new rolling stock over the course of the franchise.
Jonathan advised “When the Northern franchise was let in 2004 no new rolling stock was specified in the agreement. The focus since the passenger growth in the franchise has been on providing urgently needed capacity.
We have refurbished over 70% of our trains to help make them more comfortable and welcoming and will continue with schemes to ensure our trains are presented in the best possible way.
Our fleet is one of the oldest in the UK and unfortunately due to the agreements in place there isn’t a quick solution for getting new trains. However, the Northern Hub works (see www.networkrail.co.uk/improvements/northern-hub) which are in progress and are due to be completed 2019 provides the opportunity for major improvements across the North and with the benefits of electrification will provide the opportunity to modernise fleets across the network."
Customers asked why the fares went up and how will this increase help improve the service
Jonathan explained "Our fares are regulated by the Department for Transport and we understand that any increase in fares during these difficult financial times has a strong impact for our customers. We will continue to work with the Government and the wider rail industry to drive down the cost of running the railway to provide better long-term value for money for passengers and taxpayers.
For every pound of income that train companies receive:
Travelling with Northern is often cheaper and quicker than the car or the bus for similar journeys, and will remain so in 2013 and beyond. The cost of our average journey will remain just £2.24.
Our parent companies Serco and Abellio have invested £30 million and we’ve attracted over £100 million of external funding from partners and stakeholders to improve the service we offer our customers. We have been improving the provision of information and personal security at stations and the comfort and cleanliness of our trains. We know that we can always do more to meet our passengers’ expectations and we have been improving our washing plants and facilities to ensure cleaner train exteriors. Over the next year we’ll be providing more parking spaces at some of our busiest station car parks. We’re also installing more customer information screens at stations to help provide accurate information to passengers about how their train is running."