Latest Rail News

23.06.16

Huddersfield station fit for the future

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 16

As part of its new franchise programme, TransPennine Express (TPE) unveiled a refurbished Huddersfield station in mid-June. Here, its head of customer experience, Steve Lee, runs through the major customer upgrades this investment entails.

As one of the most significant stations in Yorkshire and a vital bridge between both sides of the Pennines, it probably comes as no surprise that Huddersfield station was the first selected for refurbishment after the start of the new TPE franchise in April. 

As part of a £500,000 investment package from Network Rail’s National Stations Improvements Programme, the station benefitted from a series of upgrades that were both a long time coming and centrepiece elements of TPE’s refreshed customer experience agenda for the new franchise. 

While the lion’s share of the £500m franchise investment will go towards new rolling stock, station upgrades are a crucial stepping stone to make TPE “the intercity operator of the north”, in the words of Steve Lee, the TOC’s head of customer experience. 

First Class comfort 

Speaking to RTM, Lee ran through the many differences customers will be seeing between the old and new Huddersfield station, the most high-profile of which is the reintroduction of a First Class lounge on platform 1.  

“It’s the first time in 60 years the station has had a First Class lounge,” he said. “It’s open seven days a week from early morning to late evening and it’s an excellent facility, really in  keeping with the station. It’s quite a classic room with all the modern conveniences that come with that type of facility – so wi-fi and power points – and we believe it’s going to be used more and more as time goes by.”

Asked if the decision to build a First Class lounge stemmed from demand or franchise changes, Lee said it’s a market TPE “wants to grow” to prepare for the future. 

“With our new intercity trains arriving over the next three to four years, we believe it’s a market that is going to grow, and Huddersfield will be central to that,” he added, “such as with the new routes that are opening up from Huddersfield direct to Scotland in 2019, and that’s going to be a core part of the Liverpool to Edinburgh service we’re going to start. It’s the right thing to do for the future.” 

New waiting rooms for standard passengers and… Felix the cat 

But Standard customers haven’t been forgotten, with TPE also building three new glass waiting rooms on platforms 1 and 2 and between platforms 4 and 8. “Whilst the station is under a canopy, it’s still exposed to the elements, so there were inadequate waiting facilities,” said Lee. 

667 One of the three new glass waiting rooms at Huddersfield station

“That was something that needed to be addressed. It’s a station used by 7,000 customers a day, including Northern Rail customers, so it serves the longer distance and the shorter commuter type customers that we have – so that was something that was needed as a basic.” 

As well as unveiling fresh branding and longer platforms to accommodate new trains, Huddersfield will soon be inaugurating a 54-space bicycle hub, keeping in line with the north’s transport integration strategy and green agenda.

And even the station’s world-famous feline employee, Felix, hasn’t been forgotten: the celebrity cat, who has thousands of likes on Facebook and has attracted global attention from as far as Japan, has received her own luxury basket in the First Class lounge. 

“Felix has been around for a number of years now; she was adopted by the team there as a stray cat, four or five years ago, and she’s become a part of the team,” Lee said. 

1Q7A1220 (1)

What’s next? 

Next up in TPE’s station refurbishment roster is Hull’s Paragon station, which will benefit from a £1.5m investment as part of its title as the UK City of Culture. Amongst other major changes, the TOC will be looking to “significantly enhance” its retail offerings. 

“That’s probably the highest profile investment that we’ve got on board at the moment,” said Lee. “But over the next seven years, we’ll be investing heavily in many of our stations around the customer experience and in other areas, such as platform extensions. 

“This is a really exciting time for the TPE business – for Huddersfield as well, but a very exciting time in general. We want to take TPE to a world-class, intercity service.”

 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Nick   29/07/2016 at 17:24

Super. 7 chairs on platform 1 which are as far as humanly possible from where the trains actually pull up. Us standard class passengers feel extraordinarily blessed. We can sit on the platform even if the chances of finding a seat on the train are minimal. Thank you thank you our gracious First overlords.

Alice   01/08/2016 at 22:08

Finally TPE are starting to take 1st Class serious!! For too long they have been providing a far inferior 1st Class service than Virgin (East and West Coast). Hopefully we will see more TPE 1st Class lounges open up at more stations. Virgin's new Glasgow lounge (my home city) is often very busy, clearly showing there is a high demand for such a lounge. With new 1st Class lounges and improved catering TPE will be able to tap into this growing market.

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