ATOC – adding value for rail passengers
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Association of Train Operating Companies
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ATOC – adding value for rail passengers
type Press release
date 19 August 2003
The railways have been an integral part of our national life for the last 200 years. Although the industry has always been in the public eye, it is today under an unprecedented level of scrutiny. Keith Ludeman, ATOC’s Chairman, explains ATOC’s role as a manager of joint industry activities and as the voice of the passenger railway.
The 27 passenger train operators have always recognised the importance of both entrepreneurial flair and teamwork. Entrepreneurial flair may have helped each train operator win their first franchises, but it is through teamwork that we can make our franchises amount to more than the sum of their parts. ATOC was formed to add value to our work as individual operators. By promoting teamwork, we give effective support to the passenger railway.
The primary way in which ATOC adds value for our members is by organising joint commercial activities. By collecting revenue from ticket sales and distributing it to individual train operators, we have been able to maintain a unified ticketing system. The system of revenue allocation and settlement, managed by the ATOC Rail Settlement Plan team, has preserved through-ticketing for passengers across the entire UK rail network. Rail Settlement Plan is one of the world’s largest and most complex settlement systems, and is even larger than any of the settlement systems used by global airlines. We have recently updated it to be capable of handling and allocating each day more than £10 million in revenue to Britain’s passenger train operators.
For passengers, we have made buying rail tickets more convenient. You can now buy a rail ticket from a vending machine, on a train, from a travel agent, via the web or at a station ticket office. Many stations have installed Fastticket machines which allow you to pre-book your journey online or by phone and collect your ticket before boarding your train.
Passengers can take advantage of ATOC’s new online services on the National Rail website, www.nationalrail.co.uk. No longer do you have to go to the station to find out if a train has been delayed; you can visit the "departure boards" pages of the website to see the time trains are due to leave and arrive at any station. Commuters find it especially helpful to check the live departure boards before they leave the home or office for the station.
One in four of all rail enquiries are now made through the National Rail website. The site can be accessed by WAP-enabled mobile phone as well as by personal computer. Six per cent of online visitors purchase their tickets there and then, a substantially higher conversion rate than most internet sites. The telephone nonetheless remains the most popular method of rail enquiry. The National Rail Enquiries telephone service receives over 60 million calls per year and is Britain’s busiest number, 08457 484950.
ATOC is not only responsible for providing unrivalled levels of information on train times and fares. We also co-ordinate marketing for nineteen transport companies operating in London. For example, this year we launched the London railway’s biggest promotion in 20 years, the "two for one" offer, which gives rail passengers half price entry into top London attractions such as the Tower of London, London Aquarium, London Dungeon, Kensington Palace and IMAX Cinema as well as a huge range of museums, art galleries and historic landmarks.
At the core of ATOC’s mission is its focus on passengers. We listen to what passengers ask for, working closely with the Rail Passengers Council and local groups, and then we try to encourage our members to provide new services which passengers want.
A lot of work goes into making life easier for passengers – simpler ticketing, real time information, help points and better catering, for example. We have ensured every train operator has a complaints centre so that it can respond to complaints and suggestions. Our passenger promise provides a clear statement of the level of service they can expect and we set out, in the National Conditions of Carriage, what compensation they are entitled to receive if things go wrong. Passengers can expect a minimum of 20% of their money back for journeys delayed by an hour or more - the most generous compensation offered by any public transport provider in the country. All this has resulted in year-on-year rises in passenger satisfaction so that, according to the Startegic Rail Authority, only one in ten passengers expresses dissatisfaction with their journey.
Unmatched levels of comfort and service on our trains mean nothing to passengers unless they are travelling on a safe and secure railway. The British Transport Police, which ATOC funds, is a dedicated force at the forefront of the fight against crime on the railways. We are no better behaved as a society today than in years gone by, hence the need for imaginitive new ways of handling railway crime.
Train operators continue to install hundreds more CCTV cameras at stations and car parks each year and to train staff in the how to deal with crime where they encounter it. ATOC has recently entered into an agreement with the Metropolitan Police and City of London police forces to renew a deal which gives free rail travel to police officers, putting three times more police officers on trains coming into and leaving London each day.
Another vital aim is to achieve the highest level of safety for passengers. Safety is constantly kept under review, and we are taking steps to make rail travel even safer. Examples include the introduction of the Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) at a cost of £400 million – six months ahead of deadline; better vehicle design; better training for drivers; and new codes of practice for drivers. The number of signals passed at danger (SPADS) is at its lowest level ever recorded.
Passenger fatality rates in the UK are in line with the European Union and, compared to most forms of transport, they are low. You are seven times less likely to be killed in an accident on a train than in a car.
New trains will be safer too. The United Kingdom’s rolling stock fleet is the youngest in Europe. The average age is down from 23 years in 1996 to 19 today – and is set to fall to 11 by the end of 2004. Investment in the railways on this scale has never been seen before: £11 billion of new investment has been brought in from the private sector since rail privatisation.
Passenger rail is a growth industry. More people travel on the railways today than ever before – half a million more passengers a day than at privatisation. The challenge for the passenger rail industry is to deliver for all those passengers. We have had to put on more trains to meet passenger demand; we have been engaged in a major refurbishment at stations; and we have begun to improve punctuality and performance after the setbacks in the aftermath of the Hatfield accident.
Rail is also a valuable industry for the country. It helps to sustain millions of jobs, both directly as a major employer and indirectly by carrying commuters into work. It provides people with an immediate and accessible transport choice with no-upfront costs of the kind that car ownership requires. And it is more energy efficient than road or air.
Today’s railway has a structure which needs no more tinkering at the edges. A period of stability, a hard focus on delivery and a renewed sense of realism are what we need to progressively improve the railway. Against that background, I have no doubt that we can go on delivering a bigger and better passenger railway.
While it takes time for practical improvements to feed through into people’s perceptions of the railway, the improvements are real and will endure. We must not let the industry slink back into bureaucratic lethargy. Britain’s train operators are determined to innovate relentlessly in the service of rail passengers.
The Association of Train Operating Companies, better known by its acronym ATOC, represents the passenger train companies – to the government, regulatory bodies, media and at industry forums. Activities managed by ATOC include revenue allocation and settlement, impartial retailing, National Rail Enquiries, railcard marketing, staff travel arrangements, international products and travel agent licensing. For further information, please contact Edward Funnell, Communications Director, Association of Train Operating Companies, 50 Bernard Street
London WC1N 1BY. Email: edward.funnell@ATOC.orgWebsite: www.ATOC.orgTel: 020 7904 3010 Fax: 020 7904 3081
Railhub Archive ::: 2003-08-19 ATO-001