It was a pleasure to meet with many of you at our annual Stakeholder Conference last month. I hope you found it beneficial speaking with the team about Northern’s plans. We certainly found it a valuable. Listening to what you have to say is critical in helping us achieve our objectives and supporting customers.
During the events we discussed a wide range of topics, and we were really encouraged by the range of questions and suggestions. Our rolling stock strategy and vision for the role of stations within communities attracted particular interest – thank you to everyone for your contributions to help develop these further.
At the events we were quite rightly questioned about some issues with cancellations. I want to recognise that some areas have been more affected than others and to provide some more explanation.
As has been widely reported, industrial relations issues continue to present a challenge across the industry. At the end of October, however, a resolution was reached for a specific issue which was affecting our train crew resourcing in the North West, helping bring cancellations down.
Along with other operators, we continue to keep a focus on managing high levels of sickness absence. Broader industry discussions leading to reaching agreement with trade unions on the right terms that protect long-term delivery are critical to resolve the current position, as is the case for all operators.
We will be bringing in a new timetable on 11 December. This will include significant changes in the North West where the industry timetable has been re-cast through the work of the Manchester Task Force. You can read more about the timetable change in the following article.
We are delighted that Northern has recently won a gold award for Best Innovation in customer experience at the UK Customer Experience Awards. This award recognises the innovation and partnership working that’s taken place in relation to our Virtual Reality App. The App itself supports customers with anxiety, autism or similar to be able to travel on the network.
And, finally, last month we launched the Northern Accessibility Innovation Scheme – a £250,000 scheme to enhance accessibility and improve train travel for all. We are seeking proposals from organisations, stakeholders, community groups and charities on specific projects that will make a positive difference to communities across the North of England. I look forward to hearing more about the submissions and seeing projects ultimately come to fruition for the benefit of customers.