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.

There will be more coming soon...

Our summer Whistle Stop Tours have now ended, but please keep your eyes peeled for more stations, stops and dates coming soon.

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.

Unfortunately we had to cancel this event due to a serious trespassing incident. There will be more information regarding the next Whistle Stop Tours coming soon.

Customers were able to discuss their feedback directly with the Managing Director, Operations Director, Safety & Environment Director, Major Projects Director, CX Director LNR as well as various Heads of Department and senior managers from Operations, Stations, Commercial and HR.

In order to replace our mixed and ageing fleet of 2, 3 and occasional 4 carriage diesel trains on your route, as well as introduce the brand new direct service between Walsall and the capital as specified in our franchise agreement, we designed the timetable to ‘join up’ the previously local and long distance separate services.

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 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.

Current time table Unchanged From December Unchanged
EUS departure Wolves departure EUS departure EUS departure WVH EUS departure
BHM arr/dep BHM arr/dep BHM - RGL BHM arr/dep BHM arr/dep BHM - RGL
RGL WSL WSL RGL
XX:15 (xx:48) (XX:24) XX:15 XX:48 (XX:24)
XX:14/21 XX:14/27 XX:46 - XX:39 XX:16/27 XX:13/21 XX:46 - XX:39
XX:10 XX:53 XX:53 XX:10

There are a number of reasons why traincrew may not be available on any given occasion and we have systems in place to plan for and manage our traincrew resource availability. These include allocation of annual leave during popular holiday times, rostering for training days, short term sickness cover etc. With this taken into account, we normally expect to operate with approx’ 10% spare drivers/senior conductors on any given day to cover last minute issues.

Just recently, a variety of the short-term influences outlined above have spiked meaning we are relying on our spare crews more often, leaving us exposed to more “on the day” issues. We are actively reviewing the procedures we use to plan crew resources to take account for this scenario more robustly going forward and looking to see if anything can be improved. We are also constantly recruiting more traincrew which will help reduce the need to cancel services going forward.

Thank you to everyone who reported this sort of behaviour, it is really useful intelligence for our revenue protection and security team. While we have a senior conductor on every train who will try to check tickets in between their operational responsibilities, we also have a dedicated team of 30 revenue protection and security managers who undertake proactive “station blocks” and follow up on reports of serial offenders. The RPSM team work closely with the British Transport Police to ensure that any information we receive about fare evasion and anti-social behaviour on our network is acted upon. We can’t be one very platform or in every carriage all of the time, so customers are often the first ones to notice if something’s not quite right, you are our eyes and ears. If you suspect that there are regularly people on your train who, unlike you, haven’t paid for a ticket, we’ll always appreciate the heads up.

Customers were able to discuss their feedback directly with the Customer Experience Director, Head of Stations, Head of On Board, Head of Stakeholder & Community, Area Station Managers, CX Managers as well as representatives from Vivarail, manufacturers of the Class 230.

Please see below a letter from Vivarail, manufacturers of the Class 230s.

Dear Passenger,

As chairman of Vivarail, I would like to provide some detail on the issues we have experienced since launching the Class 230 with London Northwestern Railway and also to reassure you that we are expending every effort to avoid further disruption to passengers.

The difficulties we have had are primarily with the Gensets (power generators). These are mainly around cooling but include some faults that have only become evident with longer-term use.

Performance to date has been hampered by having insufficient spare Gensets to support the failures. However, we are pleased to report additional Gensets are now available to the maintenance team at Bletchley. We now have four Gensets as a spare float. With the team and spares we have in place to effect repairs, we expect this to have a significant impact and whenever necessary we also bring in additional support for the team at Bletchley.

We have also set out a further medium-term plan to make additional resources available at both Bletchley and Seaham (our base where Gensets are repaired) and we have started a programme of re-work on all Gensets, utilising the additional spares that are available.

Adrian Shooter

Chairman, Vivarail​

We recognise that since the launch of the Class 230, performance on the Marston Vale line has not been acceptable and are working with Vivarail to make sure that problems are addressed. Unfortunately, the trains which previously operated on the route have been cascaded to train other operators, so we don’t have any options currently to reinstate the previous fleet.

Our usual rail replacement contracts are managed on a network wide basis and are designed to give us access to the widest pool of vehicles close to our primary hub stations, this means that we often work with the larger bus operators and not local firms who are less able to commit to providing the numbers of coaches needed. It has become clear that in the case of the Marston Vale and this summer’s regular disruption, this model is not ideal, and we are exploring if we can work with a dedicated local company who may not have as many vehicles, but who can be more reactive. We are also empowering the local station team at Bletchley to have more say in when we need RR transport and how much capacity we need. We’re not promising that this will be perfect, as recruiting buses during peak times when they are busy on school contracts, as well as getting caught up in traffic jams will always be a challenge, but we are doing what we can to improve the factors within our control.

These are part of a wider commitment to increase the number of ticket machines across our entire network and introduce smart card season tickets within our “London and Southeast” commuter area (everywhere south of Northampton). The ticket machines will come online in stages over the autumn and the “platform validator” screens will be enabled early next year when our smart card launches.

*Oyster cards will still only be valid for travel from London to as far as Watford. On the Marston Vale, smart card tickets will be based on the LNR card.

We have raised this with Network Rail (our de facto landlord for all station premises) as we know a few areas around the station aren’t looking their best. Our in-house property and area station management teams will continue to monitor the situation and work with Network Rail to make sure making arrangements to fix it remain on the priority to do list.

We continually monitor for antisocial behaviour around our stations and work closely with the Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership to make stations a place the local community can be proud of. Thanks for bringing this one to our attention, it will be passed on to our Milton Keynes area management team for attention. We have security, revenue protection and management teams out and about at all hours of the day but can’t be on every platform, or in every carriage all at once. Please remember, if you see something that doesn’t look right when on or about the rail network - you can get in touch with the British Transport Police by texting 61016 – they are always grateful for passengers being an extra pair of eyes and ears to report this sort of activity.

Over the next 18 months we will be preparing for another timetable overhaul, based on a new train fleet across the board, recruiting and training hundreds more traincrew and rebuilding stations across our network. At a local level, the efficiencies brought about by these developments will allow us to launch a Sunday service on the Marston Vale from May 2021 onwards. In the meantime, on most bank holidays we are already open for business, certain holidays like Christmas and Boxing Day are subject to other arrangements.

Customers were able to discuss their feedback directly with the Managing Director, Customer Experience Director, Major Projects Director, Head of Stations, Head of Stakeholder & Community, Head of CX Strategy, Head of Marketing, Station Management, CX Managers, Integrated Transport Lead and Marketing teams.

The new timetable and many of the new services were mandated to us in a contract with the Department for Transport as it delivered 2,000 new rush hour seats in and out of London. It represented around 2500 changes to our traincrew, train and maintenance rosters across the network. These were planned, modelled, stress tested and scrutinised by industry partners over a 3 year period, but fundamentally they cannot be trialled for real, as there is no spare railway to give it a go. We recruited 200+ new drivers / senior conductors, added 32 carriages to the fleet, with 40 more to come later 2019, all to operate the new services and deliver a reliable service. We knew that a change on this scale would carry a certain level of risk and equally that there may be teething problems to begin with, while our teams got used to how it all fits together.

In practice, certain bits of the timetable that work on paper are not working in reality, such as the Euston to Rugeley via Birmingham service. Localised delays and minor disruptions are spreading more regularly between routes as a result of the interworking which is having a domino effect on to the heavily congested West Coast mainline in & out of Euston. We are also using our fleet very intensively to cover for the late delivery of 10 extra trains from Transpennine Express, we should have received these in April ’19 but the introduction of TPE’s brand new trains has been delayed so they cannot release the ones due to us. With these additional units, the fleet rosters can be relaxed which should mean more breathing space and a few spare units when things go wrong.

Early in June / July, we were busy analysing the immediate issues to try and work out what were indeed teething problems and what was actually fact structural problems with the timetable design. This work led to some reallocation of 12 car trains in June at Apsley and Kings Langley, as well as some tactical re timing in the next round of industry changes in December ’19. We are also training more crews on a wider portfolio of routes which should mean we can more flexibly deploy our resources during disruption.

Demand for our services continues to grow every year and while we placed an order for 225 brand new carriages back in December 2017 when we were awarded the franchise, we knew these would take approx’ 3 years to build. In the meantime, our existing mainline fleet of Class 350 trains are starting to feel their age and look tired round the edges, so we need to get them into our workshops for some midlife TLC.

With this in mind, we added 7 extra, 4 carriage, Class 319s to our commuter fleet in April 2019 to help keep you moving in the meantime. We know they’re not as comfortable or modern as the majority of our fleet and don’t plan to keep them any longer than we have to, the sooner they can be turned into baked bean tins and our new trains are delivered the better!

There are a number of reasons why traincrew may not be available on any given occasion and we have systems in place to plan for and manage our traincrew resource availability. These include allocation of annual leave during popular holiday times, rostering for training days, short term sickness cover etc. With this taken into account, we normally expect to operate with approx’ 10% spare drivers/senior conductors on any given day to cover last minute issues.

Just recently, a variety of the short-term influences outlined above have spiked meaning we are relying on our spare crews more often, leaving us exposed to more “on the day” issues. We are actively reviewing the procedures we use to plan crew resources to take account for this scenario more robustly going forward and looking to see if anything can be improved. We are also constantly recruiting more traincrew which will help reduce the need to cancel services going forward.

The previous service which ran from London to Crewe, via stations in the Stoke area, was replaced by our new faster and more direct London to Crewe service so that we could introduce 8 carriage trains on the route. Previously, the layout or tracks and platform lengths at Kidsgrove prevented us from running 8 carriage trains as they could not safely call here. By re routing the service away from “the Stoke loop” we can operate longer trains on our very busy services through Stafford, Lichfield, Tamworth and Nuneaton.

We didn’t want to leave the people of Staffordshire high and dry though which is why we launched a new service from Crewe, via Stoke on Trent to Birmingham and then onto London.

Delay Repay refunds are available to all customers who’ve been delayed by more than 15 minutes on any London Northwestern Railway service at their final destination, even if they’re travelling on a Oyster card. You can do this by picking up a Delay Repay freepost form at one of our stations or online, you just need to select Oyster card as the ticket type on the menu.

You can find out more here - https://www.londonnorthwesternrailway.co.uk/about-us/delay-repay

Customers were able to discuss their feedback directly with our Area Station Manager, Duty Station Manager, Head of Stations, Head of Community & Stakeholder & CX Strategy Manager.

A) Since May, we are acutely conscious that overall timetable performance, and specifically performance on our Euston routes, has been below what customers expect and below what we aim to provide. There are multiple reasons for this – adding trains into the timetable and providing new direct connections to further away destinations on an already very busy network has made our operation more vulnerable to ‘knock on’ delay. For instance, this is where a seemingly insignificant minute’s delay in Liverpool can cause a train to miss its signalling path through a busy junction, adding further delays with a subsequent domino effect all the way down the line to London.

We’re doing lots of work to quickly address the root cause of these apparently small delays across the network and have a director led working group meeting each week to track progress on action plans. While we are initially focusing on reducing these individual incidents, the impact of each incident is still difficult for us to manage with our existing resource. From September 2019, we will begin introducing an extra 10 modern 4 carriage Class 350 trains, these were originally due to be delivered to us in the spring but were unfortunately delayed due to the late introduction of replacement trains at Transpennine Express. We have also spent a considerable amount of time training more drivers and senior conductors on a wider portfolio of routes, such as our Crewe based teams on the route between Milton Keynes and London Euston, which will allow us to deploy our crews more flexibly during disruption.

What is clear from the feedback we’ve collated over the last few months, is that customers like the new direct journey opportunities and improved connectivity, but don’t want this to come at the cost of reduced reliability. You can rest assured that delivering a more robust operation is our top priority.

A) We inherited our mixed mainline fleet from London Midland in 2017, it is comprised of four types of train* - all of which different facilities and seating layouts. To help provide a better level of service and on board experience for our customers, we have ordered 225 brand new carriages for our Euston services. These new trains will have facilities such as tables, drinks holders and charging sockets at every seat. We have also begun a complete overhaul and refurbishment programme for our Class 350 fleet to bring them up to scratch. The first renovated Class 350 train is due back into service in August 2019. As this project runs through to 2020 we will continue to use the older Class 319 trains to cover for those which are in the workshop. Unfortunately, it’s a slow process to deliver the improvements while still delivering thousands of daily services and new build trains have an approximate 3 year lead time. In the meantime, we will continue to scour the ‘second hand’ train market to make sure we are operating the most comfortable and reliable trains available to us at any time.

*Class 350/1 – Modern train with air con and digital display screens, but the blue seats are starting to looking tired and need an upgrade.

*Class 350/2 - Modern train with air con and digital display screens, high density 3 + 2 seating across the carriage and no tables in standard class, these will be replaced by brand new trains.

*Class 350/3 - Modern train with air con and digital display screens, green seats and in fairly good condition. These trains will be the final fleet to go for refurbishment.

*Class 319 – Ex Thameslink commuter trains – no air con and a variety of seating layouts. These are a short-term rolling stock solution for LNR and will be replaced by brand new trains.

A) We are committed to increasing the number of car parking spaces across the network by over 1000 over the next few years, we know that Northampton is a growing town and hope that many of these spaces can be built here. The land around the station is owned &/or leased by various different parties and also has a number of access constraints from the principle roads in the area. We are actively investigating with local stakeholders what the options are and hope to be able to share a proposal with you soon.

In the meantime, you should start to see some remedial works happening in the current facility over the Autumn as we know its not looking its best and would benefit from a revamp.

A) Our initial rollout focuses on the London Commuter market as this represents a significantly high proportion of our customers and it is being designed to complement the Oyster card, which is already valid on our services as far north as Watford. In the West Midlands area, a Birmingham based version of Oyster is being developed, called Swift, which will cover journeys on our route as far south as Coventry. While we focus on these initial phases, we don’t have an exact schedule of when we will extend smart card season tickets more widely out of these areas. However, this is something we are still investigating and hope to be able share details in the future.

A) Right back at the beginning of our franchise, we reduced the Delay Repay threshold to 15 minutes, this was part of our commitment to customers to recognise and recompense for the impact of delays, but also to demonstrate that we are dedicated to reducing disruption wherever we can. In the short term, we prepared to receive a greater volume of claims by automating some of the behind the scenes administration. This does mean that the information fields on the submission form needed extra clarity to help the system recognise the service you were travelling on and what ticket type you had.

We are exploring ways to make the whole end to end process more straightforward, as some customers have suggested that the complexity puts them off claiming, which goes against our principle of putting the customer first. We are also keen to investigate the benefits that smart ticketing could bring in the medium term, particularly in relation to automating the delay repay process entirely, where customers wouldn’t need to make a claim.

Customers were able to discuss their feedback directly with our Area Station Manager, (Head of Stations, Head of Community & Stakeholder & Customer Experience Strategy Manager.

A) Demand for our services continues to grow every year and while we placed an order for 225 brand new carriages back in December 2017 when we were awarded the franchise, we knew these would take approx’ 3 years to build. In the meantime, our existing mainline fleet of Class 350 trains are starting to feel their age and look tired round the edges, so we need to get them into our workshops for some midlife TLC.

With this in mind, we added 7 extra, 4 carriage, Class 319s to our commuter fleet in April 2019 to help keep you moving in the meantime. We know they’re not as comfortable or modern as the majority of our fleet and don’t plan to keep them any longer than we have to, the sooner they can be turned into baked bean tins and our new trains are delivered the better!

A) Since May, we are acutely conscious that overall timetable performance, and specifically performance on our Euston routes, has been below what customers expect and below what we aim to provide. There are multiple reasons for this – adding trains into the timetable and providing new direct connections to further away destinations on an already very busy network has made our operation more vulnerable to ‘knock on’ delay. For instance, this is where a seemingly insignificant minute’s delay in Liverpool can cause a train to miss its signalling path through a busy junction, adding further delays with a subsequent domino effect all the way down the line to London.

We’re doing lots of work to quickly address the root cause of these apparently small delays across the network and have a director led working group meeting each week to track progress on action plans. While we are initially focusing on reducing these individual incidents, the impact of each incident is still difficult for us to manage with our existing resource. From September 2019, we will begin introducing an extra 10 modern 4 carriage Class 350 trains, these were originally due to be delivered to us in the spring but were unfortunately delayed due to the late introduction of replacement trains at Transpennine Express. We have also spent a considerable amount of time training more drivers and senior conductors on a wider portfolio of routes, such as our Crewe based teams on the route between Milton Keynes and London Euston, which will allow us to deploy our crews more flexibly during disruption.

What is clear from the feedback we’ve collated over the last few months, is that customers like the new direct journey opportunities and improved connectivity, but don’t want this to come at the cost of reduced reliability. You can rest assured that delivering a more robust operation is our top priority.

A) Right back at the beginning of our franchise, we reduced the Delay Repay threshold to 15 minutes, this was part of our commitment to customers to recognise and recompense for the impact of delays, but also to demonstrate that we are dedicated to reducing disruption wherever we can. In the short term, we prepared to receive a greater volume of claims by automating some of the behind the scenes administration. This does mean that the information fields on the submission form needed extra clarity to help the system recognise the service you were travelling on and what ticket type you had.

We are exploring ways to make the whole end to end process more straightforward, as some customers have suggested that the complexity puts them off claiming, which goes against our principle of putting the customer first. We are also keen to investigate the benefits that smart ticketing could bring in the medium term, particularly in relation to automating the delay repay process entirely, where customers wouldn’t need to make a claim.

A) While we share the route into London Euston with two other trains operators, Virgin Trains & London Overground, there are actually three distinct sets of railway lines that technically work separately from each other up to Watford; the fast lines, the slow lines, and the DC lines. Under normal circumstances, the fast lines are reserved for Virgin’s express services on the basis that they have further to travel and don’t want to get stuck behind an urban stopping train. We have 1 path per hour available to us on the fast line for our Crewe service, calling first at Milton Keynes. The rest of our services are operated on the slow lines, so that we can stop at the commuter stations between London and Northampton without holding up through trains.

Often, disruption affecting our lines may not stop trains operating on one of the others (eg there is a blockage on one line, but the others remain clear). In this instance, we have to request access for our services to move over and overtake the obstruction which means we have to wait for a path to become free behind a long distance service. When disruption affects all lines, the signallers’ contingency plans tend to favour clearing a larger proportion of intercity trains during the initial stages of service recovery as the intercity trains have the potential to cross contaminate delays around a greater proportion of the national network.

Believe it or not, our operation at Euston is more complex than the other operators as we operate a greater number of services, meaning our trains and crews work more intensively and can become displaced more easily. We are addressing this by training more crews on a wider portfolio of routes, equally with the changes to our timetable meaning more of our trains go further afield, we are working with Network Rail to rewrite the route control contingency plans.

A) We have undertaken a root and branch review of car parking provision and prices across our network. This has been carried out to complement our station travel planning program which aims to develop a sustainable approach to ‘final mile’ travel when accessing stations.

The pricing structure that we have introduced is based on zonal pricing across all our stations with 5 distinct price bands, as opposed to individual bespoke charges. This aims to reduce ‘rail heading’, where motorists may drive extra miles to avoid higher charges elsewhere, thus preventing local residents from accessing the station and contributing to harmful emissions from short car journeys.

We understand that this has meant a large proportional increase in the daily price at Apsley which is regrettable, but there are stations such as St Albans Abbey where some prices have come down into the standardised bands. Our integrated transport and accessibility team will continue to monitor car park usage, as well as other modes of transport used to access the station and review as appropriate.

Customers were able to discuss their feedback directly with our Duty Station Manager, Head of Stations & Customer Experience Strategy Manager.

While this was a quiet session, the general feedback was that customers are grateful for the extra carriages and quicker journey times on our London Euston route, but wanted to let us know that toilets are seemingly “out of service” more often than they used to be.

We have had some issues with a newly installed Controlled Emission Toilet (CET) machine (AKA train toilet emptying machine) at Liverpool over the last few months as well as the late delivery of an additional CET machine for Crewe. As our mainline trains now spend more time working and less time in the depots than they did before the introduction of our May timetable, “early intervention locations” like Liverpool and Crewe are increasingly crucial to help us keep on top of our toilets. We’re hoping that both of these facilities will be fully operational by the end of the August which should improve toilet reliability on our long-distance trains.

Customers were able to discuss their feedback directly with our Head of Stations, Head of Community & Stakeholder) & Customer Experience Strategy Manager.

A) Demand for our services continues to grow every year and while we placed an order for 225 brand new carriages back in December 2017 when we were awarded the franchise, we knew these would take approx’ 3 years to build. In the meantime, our existing mainline fleet of Class 350 trains are starting to feel their age and look tired round the edges, so we need to get them into our workshops for some midlife TLC.

With this in mind, we added 7 extra, 4 carriage, Class 319s to our commuter fleet in April 2019 to help keep you moving in the meantime. We know they’re not as comfortable or modern as the majority of our fleet and don’t plan to keep them any longer than we have to, the sooner they can be turned into baked bean tins and our new trains are delivered the better!

A) From May 2019, Network Rail have decommissioned platform’s 17 & 18 at London Euston to allow for HS2 construction work to begin. This has reduced the number of platforms available for train operators at the station.

Mitigation works have been carried out further up the line, with additional sidings built at Camden depot, as well as the extension of platform 10 at Watford Junction. In conjunction with this trains have been re planned to have shorter turnaround times at Euston, with cleaning and fleet preparation work taking place away from the station instead.

Overall, this means that we there is an extremely limited choice of platforms available while the new high-speed station takes shape and we are having to make more intensive use of the platforms that are left open to us, including the situation outlined in the question above. We will continue to work with Network Rail to see if we can improve any specific pinch points such as the 09:00 arrivals.

A) Attaching and detaching trains may look like a quick and relatively simple process (that’s because our expert teams have got it down to a fine art), but it is in fact a complex and potentially hazardous task with lots of safety checks. As the procedure involves a moving train, all doors must be secured while we do this for your safety.

While it is annoying to get to your platform and find the train sitting there all locked up, when all you want to do is get a seat and get home (trust us we know, we travel by train too!), by keeping doors locked before the “attaching train” is even in the platform, we can join them together more quickly & stand a better chance of keeping to time. If we had to wait until the last minute and close the doors, this would add time into the procedure and delay not only the train involved but also potentially other train paths out of the station (basically like an aeroplane missing its slot for the runway).

A) Absolutely yes! While our teams are briefed to encourage as many people to feed their tickets through the readers as possible, as it helps us monitor pedestrian flow and crowding statistics for popular trains, you are absolutely able to use the wider aisle gates in circumstances like this if you’re more comfortable doing so. Please speak to a member of the gateline team who should be more than willing to help.