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.

Where are we going to be?

16.09.2019 07:45 - 18:15 Birmingham New Street (main concourse)
12.09.2019 Afternoon and evening trains Marston Vale
02.10.2019 07:30 - 19:30 London Euston (main concourse)

*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.

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.

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 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.