Train bosses defend their record

By Rebecca SheppardBOSSES at train operator One insisted last night rail services were improving - despite more than 900 complaints about its new timetable.

By Rebecca Sheppard

BOSSES at train operator One insisted last night rail services were improving - despite more than 900 complaints about its new timetable.

They said punctuality and the quality of service had improved since One took over the new Greater Anglia franchise last April.

But they admitted there had been some teething problems when the biggest change to the region's rail timetable for 40 years came into effect in December - although moves were under way to address these.

Andrew Goodrum, business director for mainline services at One, and Peter Meades, its public affairs manager, were speaking to the East Anglian Daily Times in response to complaints that have flooded in since the timetable shake-up.

Mr Goodrum said the new timetable had been a success and added: “We have achieved excellent performance figures once it had time to bed in.

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“It is consistency we are trying to aim for rather than having peaks and troughs. When things go wrong we now have the speed and ability to put things right more effectively than we had before.”

The timetable had to be reformed under a franchise condition set out by the Strategic Rail Authority, but 900 complaints have been lodged about it.

Mr Meades said: “This was the biggest timetable change for 40 years and inevitably there are some people that are not going to be happy with some of the changes.”

Mr Goodrum added the level of complaints had not been particularly above par and had levelled off in the past six weeks.

He said passengers' comments - which had tended to be about their particular travel patterns being changed - had been taken into consideration when adjustments were made to the timetable last month to cater for hotspots.

One promised there would be further “tweaks” of the timetable in June and December.

It also defended its punctuality record after EADT readers raised concerns over trains running late.

According to the latest figures, punctuality for One's mainline services was at 92% in the four weeks ending on February 5 and 92.4% across the timetable - compared to its performance for April last year, which averaged at 88%.

More than 99% of trains advertised ran, which the operator hailed as an “excellent” reliability figure.

Responding to complaints over services being inconvenient in the rush-hour, Mr Goodrum said the new timetable had been designed to the clockface, with trains running every half an hour throughout the day, to make it easier for commuters.

Mr Meades added: “Some people who are used to a certain level of service and are affected by the changes are going to feel it is less convenient. However, the aim has to be that the service is convenient for the majority of people. We are listening and we haven't closed anything off as far as changes go.”

Mr Goodrum admitted that in the first couple of weeks of the new timetable some passengers had found trains overcrowded and he said that had been due to some new trains being shorter and certain services being more popular than anticipated.

That had been tackled by undertaking a period of driver training, which created greater flexibility and allowed them to target longer trains to the busiest times.

Regarding the cleanliness of trains, Mr Goodrum said: “We are very conscious that the priority is for the trains to run to time. During times of disruption we will get the train dispatched in time to clear up disruption as soon as possible.

“Things like holding trains at Norwich or Liverpool Street for cleaning will add delays. It is sometimes a conscious decision to get the train running again. We are also planning for mobile cleaning people to undertake cleaning while the train is on the move.”

One assured passengers who did complain that they were being listened to, but admitted there had been delays in responding to complaints and paying out compensation while its new customer services centre was moved and amalgamated in Norwich, although that had improved.

Trevor Garrod, chairman of the East Suffolk Travellers' Association, said: “Our position is that we have got concerns which we want to see addressed, but at the same time we recognise that there are many good things about the new timetable.

“It's a relatively small number of trains which are causing concern, but those are mostly trains used by daily commuters who invest a lot of money so their complaints have got to be taken seriously.

“As far as we're concerned, the particular problems are the 7.43am from Lowestoft to Norwich, which suffers from gross overcrowding, and the fact that in the evening peak period there is no through train on the east Suffolk line.

“We want to see either an additional through train or more convenient connections at Ipswich at that time of the evening.”

rebecca.sheppard@eadt.co.uk

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