Members of the MRUA Committee attended a meeting with senior managers from Abellio today to discuss their plans for the new Greater Anglia franchise.
Abellio took the opportunity to explain again that the short nature of this franchise - only 29 months - means that the emphasis will be on improving customer service rather than major projects such as acquiring new trains. A Customer Training programme will be provided to all operational staff and 1,650 PDAs will be distributed amongst customer facing staff to enable them to provide timely information to passengers. Regular customer surveys will be carried out to monitor service quality. A texting service will be reintroduced, as well as advising passengers via email of service issues.
Abellio will be launching a mobile phone application from which tickets can be bought and new, easier to use, ticket machines will be introduced by May 2012. A new website will be introduced from which tickets can be bought together with a 'print at home' service.
As has been widely publicised the Oyster Pay-As-You-Go service will be extended to Shenfield.
Abellio assures passengers that the reduction to the fleet of 8 carriages will not increase crowding as existing stock will be better utilised. This may mean that certain trains appear fuller than before i.e. trains previously 40% full may now be 80% full but this is due to better utilisation of existing carriages. Also timetables will be colour coded to identify crowded services to allow passengers to make better choices about those they use. Platform zoning will also be introduced to identify where the busy carriages are and also first class.
Abellio will also be taking steps to ensure services run smoothly during the Olympics.
Abellio are keen to entice more people onto the trains and the MRUA has asked them to review parking charges at Manningtree which is known to be a deterrent to many.
Overall the impression given was promising but of course the proof will be in how they perform once they take over on 5th February.