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Keeping Scotland moving through a connected rail network

By Sean Duffy - Posted on 18 September 2013

Sean Duffy, commercial director at ScotRail, looks at the contribution which the UK’s largest regional train operator makes to Scotland’s economy and assesses its impact on the country’s railways since it was awarded the franchise in 2004…

Keeping Scotland moving is a major responsibility.

We’re fully aware of how much people - particularly those in the business community - depend on us to deliver them to their destination safely, on time and in comfort.

We’re also conscious of the role we play as a cog in the wider network which connects Scotland, linking effectively into road, air and sea transport systems and supporting the tourism sector.

It’s that recognition which has transformed the way we work since we took over the franchise from National Express in 2004.

Consumer behaviour has changed considerably in that time – customer expectations are, quite rightly, higher and that’s been the impetus behind our change from an ‘engineering’ company into one which has customer service as its main priority.

In recently commissioning the Fraser of Allander Institute to conduct an economic impact study on ScotRail, our aim was to highlight the importance of the connections we make, particularly as they relate to the Scottish business community, and to outline the impact we have on the wider economy.

The study showed that ScotRail enabled total employment of 59,615 people in 2012/2013, which equates to an economic impact for Scotland of £1.5 billion.

It also found that we now employ 4,700 people - up more than 35% since the early days of the franchise - and support a total of £302.5 million in wages across the country.

“Hold on”, I hear you say. “All I want is for the trains to run on time!”

Quite right too. In addition to outlining the financial contribution we make, the report also considers performance issues.

It shows that train punctuality has improved - from 83.1% to 93.0% - despite running hundreds more trains a day. It also demonstrates that customer satisfaction is at a record high in the latest National Passenger Survey – at 90%, some five points higher than the UK average for train operators.

Passenger growth has also increased significantly with 20 million more journeys a year by 2013, up more than 30% to 83.3 million.

The challenge is to maintain that kind of progress.

We also must accept that for a variety of reasons disruption is inevitable in any transport system whether that’s roadworks on the M8, a plane stranded at the wrong airport or a line fault which prevents a train running on time.

As with so many customer-related issues, the key is communication which is why, rather than view social media as a potential threat, we’ve embraced it and now have more than 40,000 Twitter followers and 30,000 Facebook likes.

Providing information is crucial, particularly over the coming months as we gird our loins for whatever the Scottish winter is preparing to throw at us.

Our ability to deliver accurate information via departure board, website or platform announcement has been enhanced by new computer links which automatically update customer information screens. We’ve also provided BlackBerrys for frontline staff at stations and on trains which helps them provide the latest information to customers.

As we begin the tenth year of the franchise, we remain conscious of the responsibility we have to keep Scotland connected and to continually enhance the service to meet our customers’ growing expectations.

What do you think about ScotRail's contribution to the Scottish economy? Let us know in the comments below…



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