Railfuture's Attracting passengers back to rail webinar on had five speakers from (or involved with) the rail industry. They were specially chosen as they represented organisations that can offer expert advice and/or take the necessary actions to encourage the public to use our railway.
Rail travel must be safe, value for money, punctual, convenient and enjoyable. Our speakers have a background defining/operating train services and understanding what passengers want and need.
Jacqueline [Jac] Starr is now Chief Operating Officer of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) – the industry body that represents all of the passenger train operators along with Network Rail, which operates the rail network. She was previously the RDG's Managing Director of Customer Experience.
Jaq will be providing a video presentation for the webinar as she is unfortunately unable to take part during the live webinar.
It was announced in late September that Jaq would become the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on 1 December 2020, succeeding Paul Plummer who was due to retire.
Railfuture asked her to take part because her role should steer the passenger operators in the right direction to focus on growing passenger numbers, which will require publicity, promotional fares and part-week season tickets. The latter will be crucial: the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of people working from home on a regular – or even full-time – basis and the railway needs to take account of this by providing value-for-money fares that enable people to travel to work two or three times a week.
In March 2020 Charlene [Charley] Wallace joined Network Rail as director for National Passenger & Customer Experience in Network Rail's 'Network Services Directorate', which was created in 2019 in response to the Putting Passengers First (PPF) programme. Leading the National Passenger and Customer Experience team, her focus will be with passengers and other customers. The team's role includes responsibility for stations and providing passenger information during disruption. The passenger experience is crucial in maintaining and growing discretionary travel, particularly leisure travel, which will become an increasing proportion of journeys in future, so it is important that the station environment is fit-for-purpose and people are not put off rail when things go wrong.
Charlene has over 20 years' experience in the public transport sector having previously held senior board director roles in rail and aviation, including Virgin Trains. She was briefly a Railfuture director until increasing work commitments reduced her free time.
Linda McCord has been with Transport Focus since 2009, and a passenger manager since 2011. Passenger Managers work closely with passenger advisors and policy teams to liaise directly with industry on translating Transport Focus' insights into real improvements for passengers. Before this she spent eight years representing postal consumers as a regional manager for Postwatch.
Transport Focus brands itself as "The independent transport user watchdog" and deals with buses as well as rail. Although funded by the government, in recent years it has criticised government policy over rail fare increases and (along with Railfuture) has called for fares to be frozen in order to encourage people to return to the railway.
Railfuture invited Linda onto the webinar panel because of the impressive COVID-19 impact research that Transport Focus has conducted and its #HeadOutToHelpOut campaign to offer financial incentives for rail travel. Like Railfuture it has been using Twitter to highlight (and hopefully get resolved) out-of-date COVID-19 signage at stations. Linda says, "we have a lot of great insight to share that I am sure the Webinar audience would enjoy hearing."
Please note: Peter Sargant is deputising for Malcolm Holmes, who is the Executive Director (West Midlands Rail Executive) and Director of Rail (Transport for West Midlands).
The West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE) has worked collaboratively with the Department for Transport to specify and procure the new West Midlands franchise which started operation in December 2017. WMRE is a limited company owned by the local transport authorities of the West Midlands including TfWM, with the ultimate aim of creating a fully devolved rail franchise to support the economy of the region.
Peter has been involved with rail in the West Midlands since 1990 when he joined Centro (West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive) after graduating from Loughborough University. He has been involved in many projects related to improving the West Midlands rail network over his 30-year career. He was closely involved in the transition from British Rail to the privatised railway and managed Centro's involvement in the Central Trains franchise for 10 years while Centro was a co-signatory to the contract, and then subsequently worked closely with London Midland.
Peter was seconded into the DfT team letting the West Midlands Franchise between 2015-17 and now works for West Midlands Rail Executive and Transport for West Midlands as Head of Rail Development. Peter's role sees him involved in future service planning, strategy development, fares strategy, scheme development, rail policy and many other activities. Peter lives in Hatton with his wife and three teenage daughters.
Railfuture invited a WMRE representative onto the webinar panel because of the growing importance of devolution in running Britain's railway.
Ali Chegini is a Chartered Engineer with expertise in railway systems engineering, risk management, system safety, assurance and approvals. He works for the RSSB (formerly known as the Rail Standards and Safety Board), which is an independent organisation that conducts research, performs analysis and sets standards to help the industry deliver a better, safer railway.
COVID-19 has widened the work undertaken by the RSSB, as previously it focused on the railway infrastructure rather than its customers. However, the pandemic means that passengers can become a danger to other passengers. During 2020 it has performed detailed computer modelling to understand the risks of infection occurring on board trains. This work is far from complete, but it has calculated that, with 44 people travelling in a carriage for an hour, the chance of one passenger infecting another is just 1 in 20,000 if everyone is wearing a face covering and 1 in 11,000 if no-one is.
There is still widespread fear of public transport, which has largely been caused by government over-reaction and unreasonably advising people to only use trains and buses if they have no alternative. Perception by many, encouraged by government messaging, is that cars are safer than trains. The RSSB's work has shown that this is not the case, which is why Railfuture has invited Ali onto the webinar panel. If rail patronage is to be revived, then it is essential that the public believes it to be safe.
Following the tragic accident in August 2020 when a ScotRail service struck a landslide at Carmont, near Stonehaven, killing the driver, conductor and one passenger, Ali defended the railway, telling the media that Britain's railway is "one of the safest in the world and in the top two or three in Europe. Accidents such as this, particularly involving fatalities, are extremely rare. Despite this tragic event, rail is still by far the least dangerous mode of travel we have at our disposal, taking into account all the hazards we may be exposed to during day-to-day travel. People should be aware that rail continues to be a very safe mode of travel."
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