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Abellio Greater Anglia is to invest over £10 million in a new programme of customer-focused service improvements across its network.
The initiatives will cover a range of projects from refreshing carriages to leasing additional vehicles, recruiting extra cleaning staff, additional investment in performance improvement schemes and upgrading ticket gates. The upgrades are in addition to the £20 million programme of enhancements announced earlier this year as part of the company's new short franchise to October 2016.
The highlights of this major commitment to further raising service standards include:
- A refresh for the 24 Class 317/6 trains used on the West Anglia routes between London and Hertford, Harlow, Bishops Stortford and Cambridge, with new seat covers and re-painting of the carriage interiors (including grab handles and luggage racks);
- New seat covers for the 21 Class 360 trains used on the Great Eastern Main Line between London and Chelmsford, Colchester, Clacton and Ipswich (provided through a partnership scheme with Siemens and Angel Trains);
- Hire of an additional set of intercity MkIII carriages to improve vehicle availability and maintain planned seating capacity during the MkIII refurbishment programme which begins in January;
- Replacement of the automatic ticket gates at London Liverpool Street, Shenfield, Southend Victoria, Colchester, Ipswich, Norwich and Harlow stations to provide new, better, more efficient gates - which will also enable the introduction of more mobile ticketing, print-at-home ticketing and future smart-ticketing schemes;
- Recruitment of an additional 40 cleaning staff (including 8 roving on-train cleaners to work mainly on Southend and Clacton trains);
- Recruitment of 10 extra customer service staff at stations including London Liverpool Street, Billericay, Wickford, Chelmsford, Clacton, Norwich and Cambridge to provide additional customer assistance and information;
- Introduction of 6 additional staff at Ilford and Norwich to repair train interior faults (such as damage to or problems with seats, tables, toilets, lighting or wall panels);
- Recruitment of 6 additional catering staff for the trial of an at-seat catering service in First Class carriages on three morning and evening peak trains in each direction on the Norwich to London intercity services;
- Wireless mobile public address systems at 8 stations (Bishops Stortford, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich, Norwich, Shenfield and Witham) to enable customer service staff to make announcements whilst out on the platforms;
- Additional investment in standby buses to provide support for missed connections at Ipswich, Norwich and Witham in the event of service disruption;
- A refresh for the waiting rooms at the stations between Southend and Billericay and at Witham and Ipswich.
The new package reinforces Abellio Greater Anglia's focus on consistently improving services across its network throughout its franchise term to October 2016 and represents a further 50% increase in the investment in service upgrades it is providing over that time. It also directly targets the issues that customers and stakeholders highlight as priorities - including on-train condition and cleaning, better performance, seating availability and crowding, customer information provision and easier ticket purchase and systems.
These additional improvements come on top of a programme of planned upgrades announced in April, which included the upcoming refurbishment of the intercity MkIII carriages used on the Norwich - Ipswich - Colchester - London line (with the programme starting early in the New Year); introduction of a new, weekday off peak Cambridge - Stansted service (which was launched, as planned, in July); a series of Sunday service upgrades on a number of routes (with an hourly winter Sunday service on the Norwich to Sheringham line already launched); the introduction of on-line compensation arrangements for season ticket holders during the franchise period and further investment in integrated transport facilities and community rail partnerships.
Commenting on the major, customer-focused programme, Jamie Burles, Managing Director of Abellio Greater Anglia said: "We are totally committed to delivering a better service for our customers, focusing on those areas they prioritise as important. This extensive package of service improvements represents a major investment in key areas of service delivery including the on-train travelling environment, cleaning, seating capacity and performance. In a short term franchise we will now be investing over £30 million in customer-focused enhancements aimed at continuously improving the quality of the train service our passengers experience."