First Great Western responds to Dispatches investigation

Monday 01st June 2015
In regards to the issues raised in the programme:

The training of First Great Western staff in relation to ticket sales

It is disappointing that the trainer initially got the answer wrong, but we are pleased he clarified the correct position later in the session. We would of course expect the correct advice to be given straight away and we will make sure that our trainers are clear about the correct position in the future.

Offering and selling ‘split tickets’

The conversations shown regarding split tickets accurately reflect the rules every train operator must follow in terms of offering and selling ‘split tickets’ as outlined in the Retail Standards Guide, which all train operators must follow. 

We agree that these rules – and many other rules that have their roots in the British Rail era – need reviewing to make the ticket buying process simpler and clearer for customers. As part of the Rail Delivery Group, we are working with other train operators and Government on how to progress this further.

Improper changes to journey times on the public timetable to help improve performance figures and limit the compensation paid for delays

The suggestion that First Great Western improperly changes journey times to improve its performance figures and limit the compensation paid for delays is simply incorrect. 

In the journey example given, all but three of the trains on the route have exactly the same public journey time as in the working timetable. The longest difference in journey times is two minutes, and none of them have got longer.

In regards to compensation, this is not based on achieving performance targets, but on trains delayed by 30 or 60 minutes. The additional one or two minute margins would therefore have a tiny impact on reducing compensation paid. 

Extending journey times beyond what is operationally required is poor customer service, costs us revenue, and would contravene the franchise agreement which is set and monitored by the Department for Transport. There is simply no other incentive for us to do this than to make sure we get customers to where they need to go at the time we have said they will arrive.

The working timetable is publicly available, published on Network Rail’s website here.

Difficulties in obtaining information from Control during disruption

Providing accurate and timely information to staff and customers during periods of disruption is an issue the rail industry as a whole takes very seriously. 

We have issued colleagues with smartphones and tablets, as well as providing additional dedicated resource to help colleagues get accurate information to passengers quicker. We have also developed our own social media team which is able to update customers on a regular basis.

Compensation claims and goodwill gestures

We regularly advertise ways for customers to claim contractual compensation should things go wrong via our website, Twitter feed (@FGW) and other channels. On Twitter, we can even deal with contractual compensation claims immediately via a Direct Message without the need for customers to write in or call an additional number. 
When it is the right thing to do, we will also go beyond the contractually stipulated level of compensations, regardless of whether or not we receive a direct complaint from a customer at all. Any customer-focused business would do exactly the same and we are proud of it.

Capacity on trains

Despite the lack of availability of suitable additional trains in the UK, we have worked hard to secure the additional capacity we know our customers want to see. Working with the Department for Transport, we have created 7,500 additional standard class seats into and out of Paddington at peak times every day. 

We know however, that this is only a medium-term solution and, as part of the new franchise agreed with the Department for Transport, we will be introducing newer, longer trains across our network from spring next year, which will increase capacity by around 25%.

This increased capacity is part of the £7.5bn Great Western Mainline modernisation programme, the initial phases of which we are currently working closely with the Department for Transport and Network Rail to deliver. This investment is the biggest on the route since Brunel and will transform a key part of the country’s transport infrastructure. 

As part of this programme, new or refurbished trains will be seen on every part of the network, resulting in more frequent and faster journeys and an increase in the number of seats to keep people moving across the Great Western network.