A local train operator is celebrating after winning a prestigious national award.
First TransPennine Express (FTPE) was last night (16th February) named the Train Operator of the Year at the Rail Business Awards.
FTPE scooped the award at a ceremony in London with what judges described as an "impressive" entry.
FTPE which operates services across the north of England and into Scotland began its franchise term in 2004. In July last year it was awarded an extension to its franchise agreement until 2015.
The train operator has continued to improve punctuality and reliability with a record public performance measure of 93 per cent and customer satisfaction levels reaching 89 per cent.
Over £260m has previously been invested in a fleet of brand new trains and all of FTPE's 30 managed stations have seen significant renovation with close to £20m being spent to date.
FTPE carries around 25 million passengers a year and the company has witnessed a decrease in the level of complaints received whilst also enjoying a 36 per cent improvement in instances of praise.
Managing Director, Nick Donovan said,
"We are all really delighted to be named the best train operator in the country.
"It is a fantastic achievement but one that has been brought about by focusing on our customers needs.
"We have invested well over a quarter of a billion pounds in improving the railway in the north of England and our 1000 strong team have worked extremely hard to raise levels of customer satisfaction. I want to thank that team for their commitment and hard work.
"I also want to tell our customers that we will not stand still and will continue to find ways to improve the service they receive from us.
"Winning this award shows that we are delivering on the things that matter, including customer service, performance and safety."
The Rail Business Awards are known as the oscars of the industry and were held at a glitzy ceremony at the Park Lane Hilton in London. Over 500 people attended the event and FTPE beat of competition from seven other nominated operators to claim the prize of best train operator.
FTPE also scooped two other accolades at last night's ceremony with Warrington Central being recognised as Station of the Year and Head of On-Board Services, Steve Lee being crowned Rail Business Manager of the Year.
Warrington Central serves 1.1million passengers a year and has been completely renovated with a new booking hall, improved customer facilities and step free access.
Peter Pilsner from the judging panel said,
"Competition was stiff but Warrington was chosen as the winner because it really does encompass everything that the Station Excellence Award stands for. Better access, more facilities and increased revenues.
"First TransPennie Express has also gone the extra mile with this scheme. It would have been so easy just to bring the station up to a modern standard with a lick of paint a few ramps and lifts and new logos here or there. Instead the company decided to go much further.
"Its 'Drab to Fab' slogan is a masterpiece of marketing and an ideal mantra for the project itself. Also the station appears to have been modernised very sympathetically. On too many project costs come first and Victorian splendour is lost, but not here. I was also impressed by the remarkable drop in the crime statistics. A thoroughly worthy winner this year."
Steve Lee, 36 from Bolton was acknowledged as a customer service champion who has led his 300 strong team of conductors to improved performance and levels of satisfaction. He said,
"I am absolutely thrilled to have been awarded the Business Manager of the Year. It is a great honour.
"I try to focus on two things. My staff and the impact they are having on FTPE's customers. I am proud of what my team has achieved and I hope I have led by example by being forward thinking, positive and customer focused."