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Welcome to our latest Customer Report, which is designed to give you a greater insight into the behind-the-scenes work at TransPennine Express (TPE).
It’s fair to say that the challenges we’ve faced in the past two years were not quite what we – or any in the wider rail industry – expected. The ongoing Covid pandemic has put strains on rail-like nothing we have seen before, and, though the situation is improving, there is a long way to go before we can say the industry has fully recovered. In the latter stage of the period covered by this report, our service provision was further impacted by industrial action. Despite these challenges, the team at TPE has been working hard to continue to deliver for our customers, and I’m incredibly proud of the efforts being made to provide the best possible service across the North and into Scotland. Throughout the pandemic, we have enabled hundreds of thousands of journeys for key workers and for those seeking UK holidays. And we have provided those journeys in a safe and reassuring environment, with our dedicated team of train presentation experts working around the clock to keep our trains and stations clean.
Our commitment to the communities we serve remains as strong and as focused as ever, and we continue to seek new opportunities to provide improved links between our towns and cities. In December 2021, we began operating new services between Newcastle and Edinburgh, calling at several stations along the Northumberland coast and through Berwickshire – giving communities along the route their first direct rail link for more than 50 years. The route has already proved to be one of the most popular on our network, and very soon, we’ll be adding a stop at the newly constructed Reston station. Looking ahead to later in the year, we also have plans to extend some services to Saltburn and provide new direct services between Hull and Liverpool, and Cleethorpes and Liverpool.
However, the services we provide only tell part of the story. The key is giving you, our customers, a high-quality journey experience each and every time you travel with TPE. We know we don’t always get things right though, and when this happens we are keen to learn and improve. Last year TPE, as part of its new National Rail Contract, introduced a new and demanding Service Quality Regime (SQR) to monitor our customer service performance and highlight any areas that may need improvement. During the last six months, from the inspections, we have exceeded the benchmark target in every period for cleanliness onboard our trains. We have also surpassed the benchmark target for the online information we provide to customers. One of the key benefits of having SQR in place is to rectify areas that need improvement; from the early inspections, our information at stations didn’t reach the benchmark target. However, this area was addressed, and our scores have since been improved; in Period 12, we scored 91.49%, as opposed to 83.26% in Period 11, with a key contributor to the improved score being our Customer Information Screens which scored 100%. Not only have we made improvements on the information we provide to you our customers at stations, but also on our ticketing and staffing. Through our inspections, we now have exceeded the benchmark target of 94% for ticketing and staffing, for Periods 11, 12 and 13, with Period 13 being the highest score to date at 97.62%.
We’ve also worked hard to make our network more accessible than ever before to give all our customers, regardless of their mobility needs, greater freedom to explore the North and Scotland. Our customers can now book Passenger Assist just two hours in advance – a significant improvement on the previous 24 hours’ notice. And, in a first for the rail industry, that assistance can now be arranged via WhatsApp, making the process even more convenient for our customers.
We’re proud to have made some significant progress – and to have received external recognition for that but know that there is more that we need and want to do to give our customers the stable and reliable service you deserve in a post-pandemic world. I hope you enjoy reading this report and that it provides a few signposts that clearly show where TPE is heading. It’s going to be an interesting and exciting journey, and I hope you will join us as we continue to seek to take the North further.
Managing Director TransPennine Express
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