Sunderland, United Kingdom (Urban Transport News): Chiltern Railways, a British train operating company owned by Arriva UK Trains, has finalised a new agreement with the UK Department for Transport, enabling the rail operator to continue to deliver the high performing service that its customers have come to expect and building on its strong track record of punctuality, reliability, and customer service.
The agreement with Chiltern Railways replaces the Emergency Measures Agreement which was put in place in response to COVID-19 and brings continuity for passengers and railway employees through the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.
As the UK railways evolve, Arriva highlights there is a need to accelerate the planning for a reformed rail industry model that serves to change travel patterns, while ensuring operators can continue to cost-effectively innovate, invest, and deliver further customer-focused improvements.
Chris Burchell, Managing Director of Arriva UK Trains business commented:
While today’s announcement provides vital continuity for customers, employees and businesses, as the railway evolves and adapts to the changing conditions arising from the pandemic, we must also look further to the future. Railways are at the heart of economic recovery, providing vital services that connect communities and enable economies to thrive while contributing to Europe’s net-zero carbon targets.
Covid-19 has accelerated the changes the industry was already seeing in regular travel patterns, with increases in flexible working practices and home working being combined with less frequent visits to workplaces. Finding longer-term solutions for a changing world will be vital. This position was recently highlighted by independent watchdog Transport Focus, which conducted research amongst rail passengers, showing that almost two in three former rail commuters expect to work from home more from now on.
With Government working on longer-term rail reforms, building on the work of the Williams Review, Arriva highlights that there is an opportunity to ‘build back better’ through an improved operating model – one which puts customers and taxpayers even more fully at the heart of service and recognises the impacts of the pandemic.
"The pandemic has highlighted and underlined the urgent need to deliver accelerated change. There is an increasing demand for flexible ticketing solutions right now, so a simpler fares system must be a critical part of the future operating model. Now, more than ever, it is crucial the railways are further reformed and modernised to meet the challenges faced long into the post-pandemic future," Burchell added.
These agreements should be a steppingstone to a new way of running the railway with a more customer-focussed model which empowers train operators to be agile and innovative, as well as drive greater investment and efficiencies for the taxpayer. A new public-private partnership is key to achieving this, one which fully leverages the private sector’s record of attracting people to travel by rail and supports public finances.
Arriva continues to work with the Government and stakeholders to help deliver this vision of change.