Value for money is the constant challenge for many train operating companies.
This is especially true for Southeastern Railway, according to its managing director, Steve White. Southeastern Railway is the country’s fifth largest operator, covering large parts of Sussex, Kent and Surrey has been under control of the Department for Transport since 2021.
Speaking at TransCity Rail South, White said that whilst the stakes are high with the issues that the industry are finding, including trying to plug a revenue gap of £300 million post COVID, which the Treasury is currently taking the burden, there is a real need not to stand still.
“There are 1000 things we could do to improve the railway – But we must always look at the best ways of offering value for money for our customers. And fundamentally, to improve those 1000 things, we need to make sure investment is answering the question – Is it offering value for our customer” he said.
A broader picture emerges when looking at that investment for Southeastern. It has recently picked up six awards at the National Rail Awards including being recognised for its customer service and singled out for its speed of delivering customer information, one which it has won in collaboration with its suppliers. These successes, Steve believes, is an example of how rail can help itself when it comes to investment.
“A high performing railway needs various pieces of the jigsaw – Rolling stock, infrastructure, people, effective timetabling – We need to ask ourselves constantly, are we understanding the interfaces that form part of this jigsaw – Are we affecting business change.
“If we do it right, investment means tangible benefits to passengers and freight which is entirely up to us to get right.
“That drives better supply chain management, better customer experience and that drives down our subsidy as an operator. It’s a virtuous cycle that we are trying to get right.”
This virtuous cycle as coined by Steve, helps the network and pushes innovation, whilst helping keep value for money. For Alicia Andrews, commercial director for Southeastern, sometimes, challenges that the industry faces provide opportunity for innovation.