Network Rail and First Great Western have welcomed a report by Passenger Focus, which singles out the engineering works in Reading over Christmas 2010 and the associated passenger communication as best practice.
Network Rail Project director Bill Henry said: “Close partnerships with train operators including First Great Western were key to our success over Christmas. The Reading job was a huge engineering challenge, but just as important for all of us was minimising the impact of our work on passengers.
“Before Christmas, we made big upgrades to the railway so that trains could be diverted around Reading, reducing the need for replacement buses. We also worked with train operators to run the largest joint communications campaign we’ve ever delivered to support engineering works, making sure people knew the facts before they planned their journeys.
“This Christmas was the launch pad for a five year programme of upgrade work that will transform Reading’s railway. We’ll continue to work with train operators to plan our work efficiently, keeping the railway running and getting passengers where they need to go.”
First Great Western Managing Director Mark Hopwood said: “The level of service we provided our customers during the improvement works in the Reading area would never have been possible without the hard work and determination of all our teams. It’s great to see their efforts recognised in this way. I’d also like to thank all our customers once again for their understanding over the festive period.”
The Passenger Focus report highlights the efforts of Network Rail, First Great Western and other train operators to align their communications in the run up to Christmas. A joined up campaign, which began nine months in advance of the engineering works, resulted in 88 per cent awareness of the work amongst regular travellers.
Efforts to minimise the impact on the operation of the railway are also commended. Passengers welcomed diversionary routes that, although extending journey time, meant it wasn’t necessary to change trains or use a replacement bus service.
Over the Christmas period Network Rail completed the resignalling of 100 miles of railway through Reading, and installed a 1,000 tonne rail bridge over Caversham Road to the west of the station. Upgrades to the rail network saw trains from Bristol and South Wales diverted via Oxford during the engineering works, and trains from the South West ran into London Waterloo instead of Paddington. A joint communications campaign between Network Rail, First Great Western, CrossCountry and South West Trains saw over 100,000 leaflets distributed, posters or billboards at 300 stations, search and banner advertising online and coverage in papers along the length of the route.