It’s almost a year since Chiltern Railways launched the Mainline, which was the first part of a £250 million infrastructure project undertaken by the company. It was the largest rail passenger infrastructure project since before World War II and has marked a transformational point in the history of the firm.
The concept behind Mainline was to provide a fast, reliable and value for money train service to the capital, which allowed business people to travel and work in comfort. Not only would the service now be faster and remain value for money but it would also fulfil a need to provide West Midlanders with a reliable and comfortable travel option, where they could use their travel time productively.
The company increased the frequency of the service and the journey time to London. Trains now run twice an hour between Birmingham and London all day every day making it easier than ever for business travellers to commute to and from the capital. The project also reduced journey times by up to 28 minutes and journey times along the M40 corridor by 20 per cent.
Following consultation with the West Midlands business community and to enhance the passenger experience, Chiltern also increased the number of tables on trains and introduced free Wi-Fi on all Mainline trains which has been extraordinarily well received.
They also launched the ‘premium economy’ Business Zone, which was a first for the rail sector. Aimed at the Birmingham to London business traveller market, the zone offers all the valued business benefits of first class, but excluding the non-essentials at a fraction of the cost. The Business Zone even beats first class from other providers when it comes to seating. Legroom is 520mm in the Business Zone, more than any first class train service between Birmingham and London. They have also made significant improvements to the ticketing process. In April 2011, they launched an app, voted ‘App of the Week’ by Apple just after the launch.
They were the first train company to offer live running time information for any UK journey free of charge and the first to allow customers to not only purchase their train ticket through an app, but to also pass through barriers simply by scanning the barcode on their phone avoiding the need to print at home or queue at a ticket vending machine or ticket office.
This has improved the passenger experience significantly. The investment has also been focused on stations. In June 2012, Chiltern Railways was rated as the top operator in the country for overall satisfaction with stations. In preparation for the Mainline launch, they completed the sympathetic restoration of the flagship Edwardian Birmingham Moor Street station. Significant improvements to the car parking facilities at Solihull and Warwick Parkway to meet the increase in demand were also made.
These improvements have all been made to ensure passengers have the best quality travel experience possible. With comfortable, spacious carriages and mod cons such as free Wi-Fi, their passengers can sit back and spend their time as they wish – in work or simple relaxation.