ScotRail Recognised As A Top Employer 2020

© ScotRail

ScotRail has been officially recognised by the Top Employers Institute as a Top Employer 2020 in the United Kingdom.

Organisations certified as Top Employers dedicate themselves to providing the very best working environment for employees through their progressive ‘people-first’ HR practices.

Independent research from the Top Employers Institute found that ScotRail provides exceptional employee conditions, nurtures and develops talent throughout all levels of the organisation and has demonstrated its leadership status in the HR environment.

ScotRail is committed to developing a workforce as diverse as the communities it serves.

Throughout 2020, the train operator will run a number of dedicated recruitment programmes to encourage more women and people from ethnic minorities to consider a career in the railway.

Gerry Skelton, ScotRail HR Director, said:

“We’re thrilled to be recognised as a Top Employer 2020 in the United Kingdom.

“As one of the largest companies in Scotland, ScotRail prides itself on supporting equality and diversity in the workforce.

“Over the course of this year, we’re going to do even more to attract more women and ethnic minorities into our driver, engineering and technical roles across Scotland.

“The people we employee will help connect communities, support business, boost tourism, and deliver a railway Scotland can be proud of.”

David Plink, Top Employers Institute Chief Executive Officer, said:

“To become recognised as a Top Employer, an organisation had to prove that the implementation of their people strategies enriches the world of work of their employees. 

“ScotRail is a shining example of dedication to people practices as they continuously commit to empowering their employees for a better world of work.”

Future Of The Northern Franchise

© Jamie Rowley

We can confirm that today the Secretary of State has announced that the operation of all Northern services will transfer from Arriva Rail North to Northern Trains Limited, a subsidiary of DfT OLR Holdings Limited (DOHL). 

All Arriva Rail North passengers, employees and suppliers can expect operations to continue during the transfer period. 

For further information about the transfer please refer to the website

For media enquiries relating to Northern Trains Limited please call 0207 067 0089 / 07870 981 351 (out of hours)

To read the Secretary of State’s announcement, click here

Ticket remain valid and available for sale on the Northern website.

Arriva’s response to the announcement [29 January 2020] by the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, that Arriva’s Northern franchise will be transferred to the Operator of Last Resort.

Chris Burchell, Arriva MD UK Trains said:

“We had a clear vision for the Northern franchise that would better connect the cities of the North with more frequent, reliable and modern services and unlock economic growth. It was clear however that, largely because of external factors, the franchise plan had become undeliverable.  A new plan is needed that will secure the future for Northern train services.  As such, we understand Government’s decision today.

“I would like to recognise the hard work of the 6,000 strong team at Northern who have worked tirelessly over the last four years to deliver improvements to local rail services in the North, at times under extremely difficult conditions.

“The scale of the challenges we faced outside of our direct control were unprecedented, particularly around delayed or cancelled infrastructure projects and prolonged strike action.  Despite the challenges, the team has introduced brand new trains onto the network for the first time in a generation. They have introduced more than 2,000 extra services per week, refurbished trains and stations, and created hundreds of new customer-facing jobs as part of a £600 million investment programme for the North.

“We recognise however that overall service improvements have not come quickly enough, and passengers deserve better. For that, we wholeheartedly apologise. We now stand ready to support Government and the Operator of Last Resort to ensure a smooth transfer for our passengers and colleagues alike.

“I am confident that as a result of the determination and hard work of the Northern rail team, they have helped set strong foundations for future improvement on the network.”

Sustained Success For LNER Passenger Satisfaction


London North Eastern Railway (LNER) has once again secured one of the highest scores for a long-distance train company as part of the latest National Rail Passenger Survey results revealed today.

LNER secured 89% for overall passenger satisfaction as part of the independent survey by Transport Focus. This represents a year on year improvement by two points for LNER compared to other long-distance train companies.

LNER has seen specific increases in scores for the experience customers enjoy onboard the services which connect London, the East Midlands, Yorkshire, North East England and Scotland.

There has also been an increase in the results for the availability of staff at stations and customer journey information.

David Horne, Managing Director at LNER, said: “LNER is committed to providing the very best customer experience for everyone who travels with us. We continue to build on the work we’ve already done to deliver even more value for money; making travel simpler, smarter and keeping the customer at the heart of all we do.”

Transport Focus consults more than 50,000 passengers a year to produce the National Rail Passenger Survey. Opinions of train services are collected twice a year from a representative sample of journeys.

NRPS is the largest published rail passenger satisfaction survey in the world. It supplies an official statistic that is used as a key performance indicator in most rail franchises. Full results are available on the Transport Focus website.

You can view LNER’s results on our how we’re doing page.

Watchdog Report Outlines Passenger Praise For Hull Trains

© Hull Trains

Rail passengers have rated Hull Trains as one of UK’s best operators in a national report compiled by the independent transport user watchdog, Transport Focus. 

The open access operator received an overall satisfaction level of 92% in the annual National Rail Passenger Survey Autumn 2019 – an impressive 10% higher than the UK average of 82%.

This score is an improvement in the last twelve months, having reached 91% in the league table Autumn 2018, and positions Hull Trains as the second-best, long-distance operator in the country and the third best operator nationally. 

Hull Trains saw a marked improvement in: improving connections with other train services (resulting in an 8% rise in comparison to 2018 figures), usefulness of information about delays (a 9% increase), how well the company deals with delays (a 7% increase) and value for money of ticket price (a 5% increase).

Anne Somers, commercial and customer experience director for Hull Trains said the watchdog’s results were valued by the industry because the ratings were based on customer experience.  

“To be recognised as one of the best performing rail operators by the people who use our services is a fantastic achievement for us,” she said. 

“We enhanced our performance in several categories and beat our long-distance competitors in every category except for one – frequency of the trains. Since the survey was completed, we have been rolling out our Paragon fleet which has significantly improved reliability, so we look forward to the next set of results where we would expect to see further improvements. 

“We transport more than one million passengers a year and we are lucky to have such a loyal customer base who continue to support us. These results are testament to the hard work of our staff who continue to go over and above for our customers; we’re really proud to be named as one of the best operators on the rail network.”

Book direct with Hull Trains for best fares online. Join the conversation at @Hull_Trainsand

Massive Customer Satisfaction Gains For Train Operator GWR

New trains help deliver 8% improvement in train satisfaction says new report

New trains have helped drive an 8% improvement in customer satisfaction and a massive 13% rise in satisfaction with train punctuality for train company Great Western Railway.
Customer satisfaction has risen to 86% and an 8% improvement on last year’s autumn results for GWR according to the National Rail Passenger Survey from independent passenger watchdog, Transport Focus.
Surpassing last Autumn’s report, the sustained improvements do not even take into account the biggest timetable change in a generation, which occurred after fieldwork for the report had been completed.
GWR has attributed the figures to the investment in new and upgraded trains, modernised, more reliable infrastructure and the continued hard work of colleagues, as their commitment to deliver improvements for customers begins to pay off.

© Great Western Railway

The company has completed its rollout of two new fleets of trains in the last two years, including its Intercity Express Trains on long distance services and Electrostar trains in the Thames Valley, which have provided around 25% more seats on some routes. Cascaded trains have also added capacity across the West of England and the South West too.
The official figures show customers reported not only an 8% increase in overall satisfaction but a 10% improvement in overall satisfaction with the trains they use, an 8% increase in the frequency of trains, an 8% increase in the availability of staff on trains and 12% increase in the usefulness of information when the company had to deal with delays.

© Great Western Railway

The report shows GWR also improved in the provision of information on board, a key driver of customer satisfaction; the level of crowding and journey length.
GWR Interim Managing Director Matthew Golton said:
“I am delighted that the hard work, by GWR and our industry colleagues is paying off and this is now being recognised by the majority of our customers; many of whom are enjoying the benefit of new trains and much more reliable infrastructure.
“Clearly our work doesn’t stop here, and we continue discussions with the Government on their priorities and focus beyond the end of the current franchise in March.”
“While the last few years has seen a real transformation to the Great Western network, the job is far from over. In December we launched our new timetable providing faster journey times; more seats and more frequent services, and we would like to keep building on that work.” 
Fieldwork for the NRPS Autumn 2019 report was conducted during September and October 2019. Since then GWR has implemented the most significant timetable change on its network in a generation.

Grand Central Voted Best Long Distance And Value For Money Train Company

© Grand Central

Grand Central has been voted best long distance operator for the ninth time and best for value for money in a national survey of rail users.

Transport Focus today (28 January) released figures for its twice yearly National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) for Autumn 2019. The National Rail Passenger Survey reveals that Grand Central was the best long distance operator for the ninth time, scoring 94%. The York-based open access operator was also rated best overall for value for money, scoring 75%, compared with a national average of 47% and a long distance average of 56%.

Grand Central has recently completed its £9million Adelante train refurbishment programme, an area which has seen significant increases in satisfaction levels. With regards to train upkeep, there was a 14% year on year increase, with the operator scoring 92% satisfaction. Interior cleanliness rose 11% year on year, with a customer satisfaction level of 94%, and the availability of power sockets saw passenger satisfaction levels increase by 14% year on year to 87%.

Richard McClean, Managing Director at Grand Central, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that once again we’ve been named as the number one long distance train company in the country with a score of 94% and to be rated best for overall value for money at 75%.

“What matters to our customers matters to us – a good service at a good price. We’re proud of our track record and our commitment to customer experience, but we can always do more to deliver more benefits for our passengers and great quality services at the heart of communities we serve.

“We have just completed the £9million refurbishment of our entire fleet of trains. We’re also bringing additional services to our North East route and will launch our new route from Blackpool to Euston in Spring 2020.

“Together with investments in online systems and our £2.6million station investment programme across our North East and West Riding routes, we’re confident that our customers will continue to see improving benefits to travelling on our services.”

Grand Central, part of the Arriva group, is an established train operator which provides direct rail connections between towns and cities in Yorkshire and the North East and London.

To find out more about Grand Central, please visit or follow the railway company on Twitter @GC_Rail, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Avanti West Coast Model Train Set Auctioned For Children’s Charity

© Avanti West Coast
  • Avanti West Coast Model train auctioned on eBay
  • Class 390 model Pendolino made to mark the launch of the train operator last year
  • Money raised will go to charity Action for Children

Model train enthusiasts will have the chance to get their hands on history by bidding for the very first Hornby Avanti West Coast Pendolino.

Sporting the new livery, the money raised will go towards Action for Children. Bids can be made via the charity’s eBay site on The auction is live and ends on 7 February.

Mounted on a wooden plinth, the Class 390 model Pendolino comprises of a leading carriage and one trailer carriage. The opening price is £249.99.

Action for Children is the employee chosen charity of Avanti West Coast’s co-owner FirstGroup, and proceeds from the sale will go towards their partnership, which provides mental health support for vulnerable and disadvantaged children across the UK.

As the new livery gradually appears on trains across the Avanti West Coast network, Hornby are taking pre-orders for the model versions. They are expected to be available from December 2020.

Richard Scott, Partnership and Strategy Director at Avanti West Coast, said: “This marks the start of Avanti West Coast’s partnership with this very worthy cause. We are very much looking forward to working with Action for Children and this fabulous auction will hopefully kick off lots of fundraising in the coming months.”

Ermelinda Ceci, Senior Corporate Development Executive, Action for Children, said: “We’re so excited to be working with Avanti West Coast as part of our partnership with FirstGroup. Auctioning this incredible model train set will mean that our partnership, which supports young people on their journey to better mental health, will be able to help even more children have a safe and happy childhood.”

Coming Soon: Heritage Interpretation Centre

The RH&DR Association is very pleased that plans to open a Heritage Interpretation Centre are now moving forward, thanks to the help of the Railway in finding premises.

 The Railway is a wonderful family attraction and sharing knowledge about its unique history will add value to everyone’s experience and, we hope, increase appreciation of this unique piece of British heritage. The Railway is famous around the globe and indeed owes its existence to Australian economics as well as Grand Prix motor racing. It played its part in the War effort between 1939-45 and was only narrowly saved from closure in the 1970s. It deserves a place which tells its story and the Association hope the new Interpretation Centre will do just that.

 The RH&DR Association, in partnership with the Railway Company, has ambitious plans for the future to further its charitable aims to develop and improve our educational input for the public in coming years, especially as the Railway celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2027.

The Interpretation Centre will be located at New Romney Station (TN28 8PL), housed inside the ‘Old Paint Shop’. The project launched on 18/1 where the last of the old rail was lifted out to mark the beginning of this new venture. 
In attendance were the Right Worshipful the Mayor of New Romney, Councillor Paul Thomas, Patricia Rolfe Chair of New Romney Coastal Community Team and Folkestone and Hythe District and New Romney Town Councillor, Danny Martin General Manager of the RHDR, Simon Foulkes Chairman of the RHDRA and Pat Newsome RHDRA Committee Member. 

Dates for the diary:

  • 18th January – 11:50. Project launch. Press welcome for photos.
  • 22nd January – Press release photos launched. 
  • 1st August- Heritage Interpretation Centre opens to the public.

Find our more about the RH&DR Association and it’s work to support the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway here:

The new Interpretation Centre will host artefacts, dioramas, photographic displays and interactive displays*.
*Interactive display dates to be announced.

Email for more information.

Grand Central plans new Blackpool to London route from 2020 in major boost for the local economy

Grand Central has confirmed that its plans to run trains between Blackpool and London from Spring 2020 are firmly on track.

These InterCity services were approved in June 2018 by the Rail Regulator, the Office of Rail and Road. Originally planned as Great North Western Railway (GNWR) services they are expected to be operated by established open access operator, and sister Arriva company, Grand Central.

Grand Central currently operates direct trains between towns and cities in Yorkshire and the North East of England and London. The company has an industry-leading reputation for customer service and value for money and a track record of supporting local communities on and around its networks.

In a move which is expected to bring significant economic benefits to the North West, including a boost to tourism, Grand Central will operate up to five new direct train services to run every day of the week between Blackpool North and London Euston. Blackpool will gain direct services to London on Sundays as well as later trains to and from the capital Monday to Saturday. Poulton-le-Fylde and Kirkham & Wesham will each have new direct London services throughout the day, seven days a week. All trains will also call at Preston and Nuneaton, with most stopping additionally at Milton Keynes, connecting leisure and businesses travellers to the capital and offering a choice of operator along with low cost fares.

Richard McClean, Managing Director of Grand Central, said: “We are delighted to announce our plans to operate direct train services between London and Blackpool from early next year. We will bring our operational expertise and industry-leading customer service to this new route, offering more choice for existing rail users and new opportunities for people to travel by train. The expansion of our services will bring significant economic benefits, empower communities along the routes and offer fantastic new career opportunities.

“For more than a decade, we have been dedicated to making travel affordable and enjoyable for people in the North East and across Yorkshire. This new chapter opens up these opportunities to the other side of the Pennines and beyond, ensuring rail remains relevant and accessible to as many people as possible.”

The train operator’s expansion plans will create new jobs over the coming months. Grand Central will be recruiting drivers and on-board crew for its Blackpool traincrew hub. Train driver recruitment will begin soon. More information can be found at

More information about the new Blackpool services is available on the Grand Central website at

From Spring 2020, Grand Central plans to expand its services to new parts of Britain, running services on the West Coast Mainline between London Euston and Blackpool North.

With five return services per day (four on Sunday), and calling at a number of popular destinations, we’ll be giving customers more choice and flexibility in how they travel between North West England and London, in addition to our already popular routes to Yorkshire and the North East.

Route map

Blackpool route map
© Grand Central by Arriva

Blackpool will gain direct services to London on Sundays as well as later trains to and from the capital Monday to Saturday. Poulton-le-Fylde and Kirkham & Wesham will each have new direct London services throughout the day, seven days a week. All trains will also call at Preston and Nuneaton, with most stopping additionally at Milton Keynes, connecting leisure and business travellers to the capital and offering a choice of operator along with low cost fares.

Grand Central’s expansion plans will create new jobs over the coming months. Grand Central will be recruiting train drivers and on-board crew for its Blackpool traincrew hub. Train driver recruitment will begin soon. More recruitment information can be found here.

Proposed timetable (subject to change)

North West route timetable
© Grand Central by Arriva

These InterCity services were approved in June 2018 by the Rail Regulator, the Office of Rail and Road. Originally planned as Great North Western Railway (GNWR) services they are expected to be operated by established open access operator, and sister Arriva company, Grand Central.

To find out more about Grand Central, please visit, or follow the railway company on Twitter @GC_Rail, Facebook or LinkedIn.

First Trenitalia chooses Hitachi Rail to build new InterCity trains for Avanti West Coast

  • New trains improve customer experience and capacity with more seats
  • First Trenitalia chooses British-based train manufacturer in contract worth more than £350m including maintenance services, with trains financed by Rock Rail West Coast
  • Cleaner, greener modern trains with two-thirds reduction in carbon emissions overall

First Trenitalia, whose new Avanti West Coast rail service starts on Sunday 8 December, has today awarded a contract worth more than £350m to Hitachi Rail to provide and maintain 23 new intercity trains (135 carriages), to be built at its County Durham factory. 

Bringing additional capacity to services along the West Coast Main Line and in North Wales, these new, state of the art intercity trains will start operating in 2022. The trains will be a mix of ten seven-carriage electric trains and 13 five-carriage bi-mode trains, with the ability to switch seamlessly between electric and diesel power. The electric trains will operate between London, the West Midlands and Liverpool while the bi-mode version will serve the London to North Wales route. They will be part of the fleet operated by the new intercity operator, to be known as Avanti West Coast, that begins operation on Sunday 8 December. 

These are fast-accelerating 125mph trains which draw from their Japanese bullet train heritage. As a result of their modern design, passengers will enjoy a quieter journey compared to the diesel-only trains they will replace. The new trains will have better and more reliable free Wi-Fi, at-seat wireless inductive charging for electronic devices, plug sockets and USB slots; a brand-new catering offer and a real-time passenger information system that can advise customers of connecting rail services.

There are 453 seats on a 7-car service and 301 seats on a 5-car service increasing compacity compared to the Class 221 Voyager trains they replace (which have 258 seats). The seven-carriage version of the electric trains will have similar numbers of seats to a nine-carriage Pendolino, owing to the longer 26 metre carriages of the Hitachi trains.

The bi-mode trains will run for most of the journey using electric power only, switching to diesel power for those parts of the network that are not electrified – for example, the North Wales Coast Line to/from Holyhead. 

Due to the high environmental standards of their diesel engines, the new trains are cleaner and more efficient than the trains they are replacing. Particulate matter emissions are reduced by more than 90% and NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions are reduced by more than 60% compared to the engines currently in service. The introduction of these new trains will help to support the UK’s drive for a cleaner, greener environment. Bi-mode technology is an important first step in de-carbonising rail and achieving ‘no net emissions’.

By running on electric rather than diesel power for the vast majority of the route is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by around two-thirds across the franchise. Passengers using locations such as Birmingham New Street and Glasgow Central will benefit from cleaner air within the station due to fewer diesel train services.

The new trains will be built at Hitachi’s factory at Newton Aycliffe in north-east England, supporting thousands of jobs across the country. Hitachi Rail prioritises UK suppliers whenever possible, including with servicing and maintenance operations. This approach has resulted in Hitachi Rail spending more than £1.6 billion with UK suppliers since 2013. To date, wheelsets have come from Manchester; windows from Newcastle, door handles from Leeds, and overhead panels from County Durham, amongst many other parts made in Britain.

FirstGroup is introducing new rolling stock to improve our customers’ journeys across all its train companies – Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, South Western Railway and TransPennine Express. Together with today’s announcement, this represents an investment of £1.8bn in more than 1,000 vehicles. 

Commenting on the new trains contract, Steve Montgomery, Managing Director, First Rail, said: “We look forward to beginning our Avanti West Coast services on Sunday 8 December, and these new trains will help us really improve travel for passengers with more services, more seats, a better journey experience, enhanced catering and added comfort.”

Ernesto Sicilia, Trenitalia UK Managing Director, said: “We are pleased to announce this new fleet which highlights our commitment to innovation and desire to constantly improve our services. We are delighted to provide more efficient and modern trains which are sustainable and environmentally friendly, reducing CO2 emissions by 61%, including new comfortable seats for an improved customer experience.” 

The investment in these new trains is being financed through Rock Rail West Coast, a joint venture between Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments. Rock Rail West Coast will own the trains and lease them to First Trenitalia. As with Rock Rail’s previous new rolling stock deals, debt will be provided by institutional investor organisations (pension funds and insurance companies).

Mark Swindell, Chief Executive Officer, Rock Rail and Director, Rock Rail West Coast, said: “Rock Rail is delighted to be working with First Trenitalia and Hitachi and our institutional investor partners to bring these trains to the region and deliver step changes in the travelling experience for so many rail passengers across the country.

“This new state-of-the-art Hitachi fleet represents Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments’ fourth new rolling stock deal in the UK, and across all deals combined sees investment by the institutional investor sector of just under £2.5 billion in the UK railway. This long term, highly competitive funding enables significantly enhanced value for money to rail passengers and tax payers over the life of the trains, along with significant improvements in passenger, environmental and operational features.”

Andrew Barr, Group CEO, Hitachi Rail, said: “Based on Japanese bullet train technology, our new trains have proven to be the modern intercity train of choice, increasing passenger satisfaction wherever they run. We’re delighted to continue our excellent relationship with FirstGroup and Trenitalia, for whom we’ve delivered hundreds of trains across Italy and the UK. This new order, which will be built at our factory in the North East, is another vote of confidence in the success of our trains, which are both green and reliable.”

The contract announced today also includes an agreement for aspects of the 23 new trains to be maintained by Hitachi Rail. First Trenitalia have also signed a Maintenance Agreement with Alstom enabling the fleet to be maintained by a joint team from Hitachi and Alstom at the existing Oxley depot in Wolverhampton, supporting highly-skilled engineering jobs.