UK: The results of research published by Passenger Focus last month include the finding that 55% of respondents claimed that they would not make a journey by rail if part of it was by replacement bus. However, if the train were to be diverted around engineering work, 75% of respondents would tolerate an additional journey time of 30 min to 1 h. For a 15 min extension the acceptance rate was 94%. When bus replacement and train diversion were compared, most passengers would prefer to stay on the train unless the bus was at least 40 min faster. Respondents complained about lack of information regarding bus replacements or diversions when buying tickets. Within the sample, 42% of passengers buying tickets online for a journey affected by engineering works said that they did not see a warning that the journey would involve a bus or a diverted train with a significantly extended journey time. Poor customer service when transferring between train and replacement bus was another complaint. Lack of information included poor signage to the buses and lack of clarity about destinations. Inadequate assistance with luggage was another complaint, even more important in the case of passengers with disabilities. Passenger Focus reports that 85% of respondents felt that use of a replacement bus warranted a discount on the normal fare. Others suggested complimentary tea or coffee as a goodwill gesture. Respondents were also asked about the timing of planned engineering work. The consensus was that such activity should take place overnight. If this were not possible, extending works over successive weekends and bank holidays was preferable to a ‘big bang’ closure for a short period. According to Passenger Focus, this is because all types of passengers prioritise commuters’ interests over those of weekend travellers. On the time of year when work should take place, the preference appears to be for school summer holidays and half terms. The respondents suggested that Easter and Christmas, two traditional periods for major infrastructure schemes, should be avoided. Passenger Focus cautions that while this indication of passengers’ preferences is ‘interesting’, further research may be required ‘to fully test this before drawing firm conclusions’.
· JR East restores Tokyo’s historic station building
· 04 October 2012
JAPAN: East Japan Railway reopened the historic station building at Tokyo Station on October 1 following a five-year restoration costing ¥50bn. A formal ceremony on September 30 to mark the occasion was cancelled because of an impending typhoon. One of the Japanese capital’s most famous buildings, the 335-m long station designed by Kingo Tatsuno was completed in 1914. It withstood the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, but was heavily damaged by bombing in May 1945. The interior was gutted by fire, and the roof collapsed. The structure was subsequently patched up using steel and concrete, and the original domes at each end of the building were replaced by angled roofs.Served by both the Tokaido and Tohoku Shinkansen and several commuter lines, Tokyo’s main station now handles around 380 000 passengers a day. Restoration of the Gothic building facing the Marunouchi business district included reinstatement of the two domes, plus the construction of a third storey and a new department store annexe, as well as two new basement levels to accommodate equipment rooms and car parking.More than 400 000 bricks were used in the reconstruction, although the supply of bricks for the final stage of the project was significantly delayed by the Great Tohoku Earthquake on March 11 2011. More than 10 000 pine piles used to secure the foundations against earthquakes were also replaced. As well as a new ticket office and the enlarged 150-room Station Hotel, the restored building accommodates shops and restaurants, plus a tourist information centre and the Tokyo Station Gallery. Free wi-fi access is provided for passengers. A new elevated walkway will connect the building with JR East’s two skyscrapers on the opposite side of the tracks. The restored building will be lit up each evening from sunset to 21.00, using LED lighting to bathe the brick walls in a soft glow. ‘The station is from a period in Japan's history when there was a heightened sense of purpose’, said JR East President Tetsuro Tomita. ‘We hope it will lift Japan's spirits and those of JR East.’
· Reliveried TGV POS spearheads Lyria expansion
· 02 October 2012
EUROPE: Franco-Swiss train operator Lyria SAS unveiled a new look on September 25, presenting in Paris the first of 19 refurbished TGV POS sets which it is acquiring to operate an expanded range of cross-border services between France and Switzerland. Originally established as a joint venture between the two state railways, Lyria is now registered as a simplified limited company (société anonyme simplifiée) owned 74% by SNCF and 26% by SBB. Lyria’s existing fleet of three-system TGV trainsets dating from the opening of LGV Paris - Sud-Est is now around 30 years old, and the company is replacing them with 19 multi-system TGV POS sets dating from 2007. These were developed to work international services over LGV Est by combining new multi-system power cars with refurbished sets of TGV Réseau trailer cars, but have since been superseded by EuroDuplex multi-system double-deck TGVs. Launch set 4413 on show at Paris-Gare de Lyon on September 25 had received an external repaint into the new Lyria livery, but not yet received the planned interior refresh; all 19 sets are to be refurbished next year. From the timetable change on December 9, Lyria is to operate all of its services from Gare de Lyon, switching its Basel and Zürich trains from LGV Est to LGV Rhin-Rhône. It will also introduce a weekly ‘Snow Train’ between Lille and Brig, connecting with Eurostar services from and to London. The daily Paris – Bern service via Pontarlier will also be extended to Interlaken at weekends. Lyria will also take over the operation of SNCF’s existing services connecting Genève with Marseille, Nice and Montpellier.