Delays and closures are part of life on the railway – passengers, given time, can understand and accept that. It is how the industry communicates with its customers that is often the difference between a successful project and a chaotic one.
Earlier this year, Merseyrail undertook one of the biggest infrastructure projects in its history.
The successful communications campaign that surrounded it has been recognised by the industry, winning the Marketing and Communications Person or Team of the Year category – the first year the award has been included in the RailStaff Awards roster.
In January, Merseyrail began a six-month project to renew the slab track within the Wirral loop line tunnels that run beneath the River Mersey, connecting the Wirral to Liverpool. Altogether, the project required around 1,600 tonnes of old concrete to be removed. Around 170m3 of new concrete was then pumped into the tunnels and 2.4km of new rail laid on top.
But the engineering challenge was just part of it. For the first six months of the year, Wirral line services were unable to travel beyond Birkenhead Central and Birkenhead North. The result for passengers was 30 minutes added to their journeys and replacement buses and Mersey Ferry services.
Merseyrail’s customer relations, social media and marketing teams worked together to ensure passengers knew how services would be affected and where to find alternative transport information. The campaign included customer giveaways, which saw the operator handing out bacon sandwiches and sweets to passengers.
‘It’s the biggest project that Merseyrail’s ever undertaken,’ said Tracey Upton, Merseyrail’s area station manager at Liverpool South Parkway station.
Fall in complaints
Tracey said the campaign required Merseyrail to work closely with local authorities and community groups. To illustrate the success of the campaign, Merseyrail said the number of complaints actually fell during the works. Passenger studies conducted before and halfway through the works also reflected positively on the level of engagement delivered by the Merseyrail team.
She added, ‘This affected a number of my stations. It was a number of my staff that were there delivering on the ground… I’m made up to receive this on behalf of the team. From behind the scenes and out there on the ground because it was a big joint effort.’
Keltbray sponsored the inaugural Marketing and Communications Person or Team of the Year award. Keltbray Rail is an industry leader in the delivery of OLE systems and the company has one of the largest fleets of rail electrification MEWPs in the country.
Paul Murphy, Keltbray Rail’s operations director, Wales & Western, said, ‘We were pleased to support this very well-attended event with rail professionals from across our industry. It’s an evening that provides recognition and appreciation for the people who deliver great work on our railways, and was very well organised and an enjoyable evening overall.’
Highly commended: John Kennils, Freyssinet, and Joanna Hemmings, Network Certification Body