The Whistle Stop Tour

Your opportunity to meet our managers and help us build a better London Northwestern Railway.

We want to put you in the driving seat! We think it’s really important for us to get to know you and give you the chance to understand everything we’ve got planned to make your journeys better. That’s why we’re hitting the road (or rails!) with our Whistle Stop events coming to a station near you.

Our Whistle Stop tour will pop up at a number of stations listed below, including all-day events in Birmingham and London. Come and have a chat with your local and head office management teams responsible for your services and provide valuable feedback about your experiences on our services.

We know that your time is precious and don’t have time to stop and chat in a station so we are also launching brand new “on board” events, covering a variety of routes across our network.

Upcoming Dates

More dates and events will be added throughout the winter and spring

What did you ask us about?

We take all feedback seriously and use it to help shape the future of your services. We also have many initiatives in the pipeline already (or as we like to call it our £524m investment programme).

You can find answers to the hot questions from each of our recent Whistle Stop events below, choose the station closest to where you travel to find out what’s going on in your area.

Customers were able to discuss their feedback directly with our Operations Director, Head of Stations, Head of CX Strategy, Head of Stakeholder & Community, Head of Corporate Affairs, Head of Fleet and Area Station Management team.

Our new timetable was designed to make the increase peak capacity (seats in and out of London) wherever possible by operating both our train and crew rosters more intensively, as an interim move ahead of our 225 brand new carriages being built. We also had to recast our paths and platform allocations at Euston, as we lost access to P17 & 18 for HS2 building works. Our contract with the Department for Transport (DfT) also required us to operate new direct services from London, to places like Walsall from 2019 onwards. With all this in mind, our May timetable was a very complex change, the biggest on our network for over 10 years. It's clear that not everything has worked as we planned, which is why in December 2019 at the next round of industry timetable changes, with the agreement of DfT, we reduced some of the complexity and intensity of operations on the West Coast Mainline to stabilise our train service. However, with a change on this scale, there is no opportunity for a ‘dry run’ to see if what works on paper, truly works in practice.

Since May, we have found that too many of our trains from London are becoming delayed en route through Birmingham New St (often by just 1 or 2 minutes) which means they are missing their departure slot to leave New St at the right time. This is having a knock-on effect and eating in to the train’s turnaround time at Rugeley. If the train’s next planned service (eg the one heading back south down the Chase Line) runs late then it will also miss its slot for accessing New St and the wider network could be brought to a grinding halt with lots of trains queuing at what is essentially the Heathrow of the railway. In order to regain a ‘right time’ start for the next service and avoid this, we have been instructing our crews to turnaround at Hednesford (the next station down the line where there is a crossover in the tracks.

We are holding our hands up that this isn’t a sustainable situation and that operationally the through service isn’t proving to be robust. In order to improve this, we will be making some changes in December ’19, which will see 1tph (train per hour) Euston to Rugeley as now and 1tph curtailed at Walsall. The second tph between Walsall and Rugeley will be formed of an extended Wolverhampton to Walsall service. In May ’20, both tph on the Chase line will be returned to local services, and alternative Walsall to London services will be launched.

Early in the days of the May timetable, we assessed what might be fundamental problems with the structure of train paths, crew rosters, platform and carriage allocations and what were just teething problems. We quickly tried to put some things right, like re-strengthening certain commuter trains to 12 carriages (we simply don’t have enough carriages yet to make them all this length). The next step was to rebid our December timetable plans to Network Rail and other operators in order that we could remove some of the ambitious complexity at the next opportunity.

In May 2020, we’ll be able to simplify train rosters even further and increase capacity on key trains as we’ll have finally taken delivery of our additional 10 x Class 350 trains from Transpennine Express (these were due to be delivered to us in May 2019!). Redesigning a more reliable service is only part of what we know we need to do though. We also need to build some bridges and regain your trust as our valued customers. In order to do this, we got approval from the DfT to discount the national fares increase on our season tickets in 2020. For those commuters who don’t buy season tickets, we are accelerating the launch of flexible carnet ticket, essentially a “10 journey ticket” where you pay a reduced rate for 10 return journeys but don’t need to travel on consecutive days, like a traditional season ticket. This will be launched on our new smart card as soon as the readers come on-line in the coming weeks. Following this, we are still negotiating with the DfT a further package of compensation for even more of our customer groups, we’ll hopefully be able to release more info early in the spring, although this may depend on how long the delayed delivery of our additional trains takes.

These trains were planned as 8 carriage services in our December timetable, but unfortunately, when in late November we were told that we would not receive the additional Class 350 trains from Transpennine once again, we had to identify train diagrams to be short formed in the short term. The physical trains which operate these three services are part of the same diagram each day (a diagram is basically a train’s roster for the day). This diagram was identified as being a “least worst” short term option as it only affected 3 peak services, that is not to say that we don’t recognise just how busy those 3 services are. From Monday 27th January, these will be strengthened again as we have worked over Christmas to re-plan maintenance schedules and bring in 4 of the additional 10 trains. We know the first few weeks of commuting on these trains in 2020 has been a bad experience, rest assured that these specific services are now on the agenda for our board meetings to ensure a resolution is found.

Towards the end of September, a variety of short-term factors (sickness, annual leave levels, mandatory training rosters and lower than usual numbers applying for overtime) all spiked leaving us short of drivers and guards on too many days. This was followed by the announcement of industrial action by members of the RMT union over the future role of guards on our services. All these factors were somewhat of a perfect storm when combined with the complex timetable that we operated between May and December in 2019. This led to crews being more easily displaced and our “spare resources” being used more often than predicted, meaning trains were at risk of having no crew, more readily. We resolved the industrial action with RMT after 3 strike days, worked to resolve the sickness issues and began utilising contingency plans (using additional suitably trained colleagues, but who do not usually work as conductors). We have also begun actively reviewing the procedures we use to plan crew resources to take account for this scenario more robustly going forward and are looking to see what can be improved. We are also constantly recruiting more train crew which will help reduce the need to cancel services going forward.

Customers were able to discuss their feedback directly with our Transition & Projects Director, Head of Stations, Head of On Board, Head of Performance, Head of Corporate Affairs, and CX Strategy team.

Our new timetable was designed to make the increase peak capacity (seats in and out of London) wherever possible by operating both our train and crew rosters more intensively, as an interim move ahead of our 225 brand new carriages being built. We also had to recast our paths and platform allocations at Euston, as we lost access to P 17 & 18 for HS2 building works. Our contract with the Department for Transport (DfT) also required us to operate new direct services from London, to places like Walsall from 2019 onwards. With all this in mind, our May timetable was a very complex change, the biggest on our network for over 10 years. Its clear that not everything has worked as we planned, which is why in December 2019 at the next round of industry timetable changes, with the agreement of DfT we reduced some of the complexity and intensity of operations on the West Coast Mainline to stabilise our train service.

Early in the days of the May timetable, we assessed what might be fundamental problems with the structure of train paths, crew rosters, platform and carriage allocations and what were just teething problems. We quickly tried to put some things right, like re-strengthening certain commuter trains to 12 carriages (we simply don’t have enough carriages yet to make them all this length). The next step was to rebid our December timetable plans to Network Rail and other operators in order that we could remove some of the ambitious complexity at the next opportunity. In May 2020, we’ll be able to simplify train rosters even further and increase capacity on key trains as we’ll have finally taken delivery of our additional 10 x Class 350 trains from Transpennine Express (these were due to be delivered to us in May 2019!).

Redesigning a more reliable service is only part of what we know we need to do. We also need to build some bridges and regain your trust as valued customers. In order to do this, we got approval from our contract managers at the DfT to apply a season ticket discount against the national fares increase in January 2020. As we don’t independently set regulated fares, this had to be negotiated and agreed as a variation. For those commuters who don’t buy season tickets, we are accelerating the launch of flexible carnet ticket, essentially a “10 journey ticket” where you pay a reduced rate for 10 return journeys but don’t necessarily need to travel on consecutive days, like a traditional season ticket. This will be launched on our new smart card when the new readers come on-line over the coming weeks. Following this, we are still negotiating with the DfT a further package of compensation for even more of our customer groups, we’ll hopefully be able to release more info early soon, although this may depend on how long the delayed delivery of our additional trains takes as to the scale of what we can agree with other operators and the DfT.

The station doors were first reported as faulty approx in late September, as we are the station operator our property team were dispatched to investigate. The fault was found to be a life expired part which is no longer available. As the issue can’t be fixed and a new set of doors will be required, we then reported the issue to Network Rail, as they are our landlord and as such as are responsible for replacing assets like this. The NR property team have confirmed that a new set of doors is required and have informed us that they have been ordered. As the fitting will require blocking access to the station for a certain amount of time, we will work with them to make sure that access to trains and station facilities are not impeded for any longer than absolutely necessary, which may mean doing the work overnight. While this is being planned and agreed by all parties, we don’t have an exact date for works on site, but we are hoping for a solution by early in the spring.

These trains were planned as 8 carriage services in our December timetable, but unfortunately, when in late November we were told that we would not receive the additional Class 350 trains from Transpennine once again, we had to identify train diagrams to be short formed in the short term. The physical trains which operate these three services are part of the same diagram each day (a diagram is basically a train’s roster for the day). This diagram was identified as being a “least worst” short term option as it only affected 3 peak services, that is not to say that we don’t recognise just how busy those 3 services are. From Monday 27th January, these will be strengthened again as we have worked over Christmas to re-plan maintenance schedules and bring in 4 of the additional 10 trains. They will then have the stops at Bushey & Harrow reinstated. We know the first few weeks of commuting on these trains in 2020 has been a bad experience, rest assured that these specific services are now on the agenda for our board meetings to ensure a resolution is found.