From fresh coffee to new trains; inter-city train company TransPennine Express is on a mission to transform the customer experience whether you are travelling to a meeting in Leeds, en route to Scarborough for fish and chips or off to see a show in Hull, UK City of Culture 2017.  

A year ago, the new TransPennine Express (TPE) franchise began with a promise to ‘Take the North Further’ supported by a £500m investment.

So, what has happened since then?

In the last 12 months, substantial changes have been made from the installation of free Wi-Fi at all 19 TPE staffed stations to improved catering.

These changes are something that brings a smile to the face of TPE Customer Experience Director, Kathryn O’Brien: “Catering is now available on-board our trains, seven days a week. We are also working with local businesses to offer much-loved Northern grub, from Yorkshire crisps to hand-made Lottie Shaw’s flapjack made round the corner in Elland.

“All this delicious food is complemented by fresh, proper coffee which is now available in both first and standard class.”

Huddersfield railway station has benefitted from a £500k upgrade in new waiting shelters, 54 space cycle rack, improved car park lighting and an elegant first class lounge. The station was also the location for a new customer forum, a new initiative introduced to harness valuable customer feedback.  The company have launched ‘Delay Repay’, a simpler way for customers to claim compensation when things go wrong, and their journey is delayed by 30 minutes or more, something the company and its staff actively promote.

A new website gives customers access to enhanced information via the company’s app, which features a door-to-door journey planner.  Season ticket holders can also store tickets on their phone.  New ticket machines at places like Huddersfiled and Dewsbury allow for better-integrated bus and rail travel around West Yorkshire.

All customer-facing colleagues have received accredited training to provide high levels of service.  However, what else can customers in West Yorkshire expect going forward?

“More seats, new services and brand new trains,” comments Kathryn. “We have signed deals for three new fleets, and production has already started. Delivery will begin in 2018.  Each train features modern interiors and power sockets plus USB ports at every seat.

“These trains along with timetable improvements will create a 69% increase of seats available into Leeds; six trains an hour between Leeds and Manchester means more than 100 trains per day between the two cities. There will be two services an hour in both directions to Newcastle along with a 20 minute service between Huddersfield and Dewsbury. A direct train will also be reinstated between Dewsbury and Manchester Airport.”

Over the next three and a half years, 220 new carriages will provide 13m more seats per year for customers.

“Whether travelling to work, for business or leisure, the better connectivity and high level of comfort gives people a genuine alternative to congested roads and the stress of car travel. The customer experience will be transformed, and each train will offer free Wi-Fi as well as on-board media servers allowing people to stream the latest films, news and TV shows.”

In fact, by 2020, 72% of all TPE’s fleet will consist of new, top-of-the-range trains; but what about the rest?

“2017 marks the start of our Class 185 refurbishment programme which will see all of our existing, modern trains revamped to ‘like-new’ standard,” said Kathryn.

To allow for this to happen, both the vehicle’s interior and exterior will be transformed with the latter refurbishment taking place right around the corner in York.

No half measures are being taken, and more than £27m is being invested in the renovation project which will deliver new seating, carpets and plug sockets at every pair of seats, allowing customers to stay fully charged when on the go. Free Wi-Fi will also feature, coupled with the same on-board entertainment system found on the new trains, meaning no-one will miss out on an opportunity to catch up on their favourite show.

“This is important as we want all our customers to experience the same high level of quality when travelling on all our trains,” comments Kathryn, who recognises that an improved travel experience and high-quality travel experience is vital when it comes to supporting connectivity and growth across the North of England.

“We have a big responsibility,” states Kathryn. “We connect towns and cities; we transport people to schools, shops, university lectures, meetings, hospitals appointments, business deals and to see loved ones. It is important we get this right, and for me, that is through providing a world-class service.”