Published 2nd August 2013
Network Rail (NR) and Stagecoach South West Trains (SSWT) announced that they would form an ‘Alliance’ to take effect from April 30 last year in an attempt to work closer together to deliver better value for money and performance.
The Alliance supervises train operations between London’s Waterloo station, the UK’s busiest, to the south and south west to Hampshire, Dorset and Devon on one of Europe’s busiest rail networks with 1,700 trains a day running. The Alliance is an experiment in UK rail and because of rail privatisation legislation takes the form of an unincorporated company.
The hybrid organisation although putting forward a unified front, still has to adhere to their respective contractual obligations with each other and the Department for Transport (DfT), so just how much difference has this experiment made? In essence, the sometimes confrontational contractual relationship remains as it has to being ruled by primary legislation.
Stagecoach also operates the East Midlands franchise and has a 49% share in the Virgin West Coast Main Line franchise so is a major UK rail operator and are in the business to make money
At a recent Alliance board meeting, it was noted that neither party had improved its financial position in the first year of the alliance, but neither is worse off either. Recent engineering work at Epsom had been carried out as planned but the indications were that it may have been cancelled without the Alliance being in place thus saving money.
Debates have been held about train regulation and how to fix track drainage faults but this is all basic railway operating many rail insiders argue, and you do not need an Alliance to do the work.
So far as the next year is concerned, there is a significant amount of work required including a heavy track renewal programme, resignalling works between Poole and Wool to carry out. The Alliance remains affected by national constraints such as provision of cranes, wagons and haulage equipment so hopefully the new way of working will be able to resolve this investment.
So what questions can be asked? Any is the answer, there are clues in this report! The event is billed as an ask the manager anything. For example, Alstom maintains SWT’s Class 458 trains and is delivering their Class 458/5 conversion project to make them into longer trains and they will be at this event. The British Transport Police, Passenger Focus and the Samaritans will also be at the all-day event which will be repeated every six months.
This is our chance to meet and talk to senior managers face-to-face as well as staff from the Alliance customer service and infrastructure maintenance teams between 9am and 7pm.
Arthur Pretorius, Deputy Customer Service Director for the South West Trains – Network Rail Alliance, said:
“Our customers are at the heart of everything we do both internally and externally. “Our new passenger forum will enable us to get first hand feedback from our customers about our services and how we can improve further. It will also provide an opportunity for our customers to meet some of our partners, such as British Transport Police and Samaritans, and hear about some of our joint improvement initiatives”.
“I would like to personally invite our passengers to come and meet us at any time between 9am and 7pm at our busiest station, London Waterloo, on Friday 6 August.”
Terence Watson, President of Alstom UK, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with the South West Trains - Network Rail Alliance for this event at Waterloo. On the 7th August, we will be talking to the public about our work in London and our need for over 200 London-based railway engineers over the next two years.
“As well as working closely on projects with the South West Trains - Network Rail Alliance, we also need people for a number of projects including Crossrail and the Northern Line.”
Improvements to communications include the launch of a ‘Tweet the Manager’ initiative and the roll out of a new state-of-the-art PA system at Waterloo station, easy to read colour coded disruption boards and the development of an enhanced mobile version of the South West Trains’ website, allowing passengers to purchase tickets and receive tailored information on their journeys while on the move.
The second event will again be held at Waterloo station on December 10, 2013.
Written by Phil Marsh