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News analysis

regulatory and administrative process, and particularly by the way in which sequential franchising on a multi-operator railway inhibits good pathing, because of the legal force of prior access rights. This has resulted in erratic intervals for many London services, and in connections that are shortened or lengthened entirely serendipitously.’ He is also concerned that pressure on the

rail industry to improve punctuality has led to more padding being added to the timetable – giving late-running services the potential to make up time during the journey and still arrive at the final destination on time – which means that some journeys now take longer than they did before. But East Coast maintains that there

are far more winners than losers. Shaun Fisher, head of operational planning, rebuffs Passenger Focus’s complaints about Peterborough, explaining that the city will gain overall. ‘Where the Peterborough service suffers

at the moment is that it does have this really good service for arrivals up to 09:00, but then between 09:00 and 10:00, it really is quite poor because that is the time that the west Yorkshire and north-east business trains are running, very few of which stop at Peterborough. So if you take the period up to 10:00, Peterborough will now have 11 arrivals, which are two more than today.’ Paul Emberley, director of

communications, adds: ‘Overall, we’ve got a much better deal for our customers. We think there are many more benefits with this new timetable. Clearly there are some more stations that are disadvantaged, but we believe the overall timetable is much, much better than it was, and we think that once people test it and try it, the overwhelming majority of people will find it’s a big, big improvement. Remember, this has been 10 years in the making, working with our colleagues Network Rail, and we think we’ve come up with something that’s really good.’ Consultation is ongoing, says East Coast’s

head of communications Neil Smith, and stakeholders’ views will be considered in the planning of the winter timetable. Some complaints based on the draft

timetable have already been addressed. For example, an additional stop service at Berwick has been added into the final version of the May timetable, to plug a long gap in the original draft that saw no London services call at the town in the middle of the day. The new timetable is now available online, with hard copies on sale in shops.

MAY 2011 PAGE 15

Food for thought

With the launch of the new timetable, East Coast has taken the opportunity to review its first class offering and will be providing free meals to first class passengers. The operator has seen increasing numbers of passengers choosing its services over flights during the last few years, and with the new timetable and improved onboard service offering, it hopes to see this trend continue. East Coast’s share of the rail and

air travel market between Edinburgh and London has almost doubled, from 12 per cent in 2005, to 23 per cent in January 2010. Similarly, its market share between Newcastle and London has risen to 66 per cent, an increase of 21 per cent since 2005. From 22 May, all services will have

hot and cold food available throughout the day in first class carriages, with more comprehensive breakfast and dinner menus served on some routes. Breakfast will be served, where

available, until 9:30, with a choice of a full English breakfast, a cooked vegetarian breakfast, fruit or porridge, with a reduced version available at weekends. Snacks, such as Danish pastries will be available through the morning, with a choice of hot and cold meals available from 11:30 until 19:00. These will include sandwiches and dishes, such as vegetable biriani, followed by fruit or a slice of cake. Evening meals, available on some

Roast chicken with sherry vinegar, orange and smoked paprika from East Coast’s new menu

services, will consist of an appetiser and choice of hot and cold dishes, such as Carbonnade of beef cooked in Yorkshire bitter or chicken caesar salad, followed by dessert. Sandwiches, snacks and some hot meals will be available after 19:00. The menu will rotate each week. East Coast has made a considerable investment in its catering upgrade, spending £10m on upgrading infrastructure and £2m on alterations to trains. Dishwashers have been installed at several depots to save staff having to use dishwashers on the train. The operator has taken on 85

additional on-board staff ready for the new timetable launch, and all staff been given training on customer service standards. ‘We’re pleased to have been able to

take on new onboard staff, drivers and engineers – that’s not something that’s happening in too many other places at the moment, so it’s good for the economy,’ says managing director Karen Boswell. ‘We’re going to be doing a television advertising campaign to promote the new services, using seven of our own staff on the adverts.’ The company has also invested

£60,000 in upgrading its wi-fi service to improve internet speeds. Standard class passengers get 15 minutes of free wi-fi, after which they can pay £4.95 for an hour or £9.95 for 24-hours. First class passengers get unlimited free access.

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