What is happening now?
In July 2014 the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that the current operator c2c (owned by National Express) had won the Essex Thameside competition and would continue to operate this franchise. The new contract started in November 2014 and will run for 15 years.
We were pleased to see the new franchise offer commitments to providing a more punctual service and additional capacity, both of which are high passenger priorities for improvement. Other initiatives that passengers will welcome include personalised travel information and performance reports, and an automatic compensation scheme for delays of more than two minutes. Passenger experience is also directly reflected in the contract which includes targets for National Rail Passenger Survey satisfaction scores for stations, trains and customer service.
As part of the newly awarded franchise c2c are required to publish a Customer Report setting out the promises it has made for the franchise. In autumn 2014 we carried out research to obtain passenger feedback on these reports and understand how well they meet their expectations. You can read a summary of the findings and see a copy of the c2c Customer Report and research presentation.
A previous competition was underway in 2012 but was suspended and restarted in 2013 following the Brown review. c2c had two short-term franchises (known as direct awards) to run services until the new franchise started.
Our role in the franchising process
We maintained a dialogue with the DfT throughout several stages of this franchise replacement process. The franchise was previously renewed in 2011 and, before the franchising programme was suspended, was due to be re-let again in May 2013. Route specific research carried out for the 2011 renewal was used alongside more recent National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) data as a basis for discussions in 2013, to provide evidence of passenger aspirations and views.
Written submissions and responses to two consultations were produced detailing what passengers would want from the new franchise. We presented research findings at consultation meetings arranged by the DfT in spring 2012. We provided advice to the DfT on the bidders’ delivery plans for the Customer Experience and Communities elements of the tenders. Having held discussions with all the shortlisted bidders during their bid development, we continued working with c2c on their policies and plans as they mobilised for the franchise.
Our ongoing work
Now the new franchise is in operation we continue to use our rail research to ensure that it has passenger priorities at its heart. Key to this are the National Rail Passenger Survey results that are presented and discussed with c2c, highlighting areas that need improvement. We also hold meetings to discuss performance, both on a regular and proactive basis and to react to any poor performance.
We continue our statutory role in helping passengers with their unresolved rail complaints. Where a passenger has been unable to resolve their complaint directly with c2c we work with them to achieve a better outcome for the passenger. We use the information from these ‘appeal’ complaints to help c2c understand the root causes of unresolved complaints and continuously improve the customer service they provide.
To view our National Rail Passenger Survey reports or to access these and our appeal complaints data through our Data Explorer tool, please click on the links below:
Transport Focus reports and publications