Like most blog posts (barring a few by ^EM) this blog is written by ^DH and represents his own views which may differ from the campaign as a whole. We're currently working on an official 'Save East Coast Rewards' statement which may differ from this and also considering what direction the campaign should take going forward (including a possible name change to indicate this is about the InterCity East Coast franchise as a whole, not just about Rewards).
When we started the countdown to LNER it was expected that the senior management team would change. This is commonplace when a franchise changes hands, but back in February I did say it's possible that the company was re-nationalised but most of the current management team were kept on. It seems when LNER take over David Horne and many of the existing team will still be there.
I've already written about what I'd like to see improved back when it was first announced. These all still apply.
What will change?
Although there's a big worry that because much of the senior team is still in place than nothing will change, we will try and be optimistic and hope that the management will consider LNER a new beginning hopefully looking to rectify the faults of the previous franchise. If LNER is willing to put differences aside and start from a clean slate then so am I. Hopefully this change in returning to constructive dialogue will be lead by David Horne and embraced by other members of the management team.
I've always tried to address issues directly first and only going public with problems when it was clear I was being ignored. An example is the website, I first became aware of the beta (site available for public testing) in June 2017. My first opinion of the new booking engine was it showed potential but still had a lot of issues and missing features. I spent half a day of my own time going through the site and documenting issues I noticed as well as suggestions and also sent further feedback when I encountered anything through normal use. The Head of eCommerce even got in touch with me directly so I had high hopes that this project was going to go well. I did get a bit worried when communication started to become one-way. I asked whether cycle reservations would be implemented before release and I never received a reply to this, I also never received a reply on catering vouchers which would have been easier to implement. Suddenly I thought that this project might be planning to release before it was ready and when it was confirmed at the end of July that it was going live in August (even though it was incomplete) I started to air my criticisms in public.
A bit of communication would have worked wonders here, understanding the challenges faced would have made me more understanding, maybe even been able to make suggestions as I work in software development and been involved with many projects of various sizes. Instead they launched before it's ready, marketing told everyone it was awesome but most people were just angry.
Communication in other areas is poor too, for example they try to hide information about accessible toilet issues, so in order to get a feeling for the size of the issue we started publishing the information ourselves using information fed to us by staff. By doing this we discovered some sets have accessible toilets out of service for weeks. If VTEC communicated we could find out their reasoning for these ongoing maintenance issues.
So if LNER are willing to communicate I'll be willing to co-operate. I think it's important to give them a chance.
I would like to see my passion for the East Coast services be used to help improve the service rather than just be seen as 'the enemy', but the ball is now in their court. Continuing the policy of non-engagement which started towards the end of 2017 (not just non-engagement with Save East Coast Rewards but also stopping public feedback events like Airtime) will not serve them well. Currently we're working on ideas that'll help ensure the passengers voice is heard as well as making it easier for front line staff to anonymously report issues to us. Hopefully it'll not come to that and hope in the future LNER sees me, and the other contributors as friendly (but critical when needed) voices.