Transforming the railway and supporting communities in East Anglia – reflections from Jamie Burles, Managing Director of Greater Anglia.
At the start of January 2020, I don’t think any of us could have predicted what a strange year we were about to embark upon. When I recorded a video in Liverpool Street, pledging to improve punctuality in the year ahead, I was surrounded by the hustle and bustle of passengers and no-one was wearing a face mask.
Fast forward to now and due to lockdown and travel restrictions, I’ve recorded my message setting out what Greater Anglia will be doing in 2021 on Teams, a programme like Zoom and other video- calling software that we’ve all become so familiar with. I never thought that we would be encouraging passengers to stay away!
In the first lockdown our passenger numbers plummeted as customers heeded Government advice to stay at home – the same advice which is all over our website again this month. Thankfully, the Government stepped in with emergency management contracts which protected the train companies from the loss in income as passengers stayed at home. So Greater Anglia has been able to carry on running a safe, reliable and punctual service for those people who still need to use our trains to get to work, medical appointments and for other legally permissible reasons.
We are continuing to improve our railway for the future, because at some point life will become more normal again. When you are able to start travelling with us again, you will see many new trains in service. We now have 66 in passenger service…and counting! All services in Norfolk are operated by brand new trains, as well as most of Suffolk services and our Stansted Express route. You can also catch some new trains on routes in Essex and Cambridgeshire.
This year more will be coming in thick and fast, as we still have 125 new trains to bring in. All the new trains are a complete step change – they’re longer, with more seats, plug and USB sockets, air conditioning, free fast wifi, improved accessibility, better passenger information screens and dedicated cycle spaces. They are genuinely transforming and modernising our railway.
I am delighted to say that we have kept the pledge to improve punctuality. In fact, in 2020, we saw months of record-breaking punctuality, resulting in 40,000 more trains arriving on time in 2020 compared to 2019. A report by the Office of Rail and Road at the end of last year put Greater Anglia as the third best performing train company for “on time” punctuality, with a 16 per cent improvement on the year before.
It’s been fantastic to see the many initiatives that we have been putting in place since the end of 2018, when I first called a “performance summit” with Network Rail to drive up our punctuality, make such a difference. We are most definitely not resting on our laurels though – there’s still work to do and we have new tough new targets to meet to make even more of our trains run on time. We are regularly providing punctuality on some routes such as Marks Tey to Sudbury or Norwich to Sheringham in the high 90s, while most other routes are achieving in the mid 90s. I want to push those figures higher still, by continuing to work on factors within Greater Anglia’s control and in partnership with Network Rail.
Everyone’s looking to the future and talking about “building back better” – and so are we. We all enjoyed the cleaner air that the drop in road traffic caused during the first lockdown. Last year we at Greater Anglia cut our carbon emissions by 11 per cent.
Train travel is one of the greenest forms of transport available – and our new trains are more energy efficient than those they are replacing. At Greater Anglia we are committed to improving our sustainability, from cutting our energy use, reducing pollution and encouraging biodiversity at our stations and supporting our local communities and businesses by running a reliable, punctual and sustainable railway to support them. You can follow what we’re doing by searching #GreenerAnglia on social media or looking up greateranglia.co.uk/greeneranglia. And you can always come and try us out – and play your part in helping the environment.
I look forward to welcoming you back
I’m very proud of what the Greater Anglia team achieved in 2020. My colleagues have kept the railway running, providing a safe and reliable service for those who needed it, as well as continuing with vital projects such as new trains and sustainability, so I want to say a public thank you to them. I really hope that when it is safe for you to return, I can welcome you back to our railway.