Millions of pounds have been invested in improving the customer experience by the London North Eastern Railway (LNER), in the process driving forward a series of projects during the pandemic.
The investments have brought advances in digital technology – with everything from real-time apps to AI (artificial intelligence) – as well as £14-million worth of upgrades to stations. These facility improvements include widespread changes at Doncaster, travel centres and toilets at York, a customer lounge at Berwick, and car parks at Durham and Grantham.
The digital advancements include the LNER mobile booking app, which the operator says has seen a surge in popularity and met with industry praise. Passengers are also able to get push notifications from the app or through SMS messages and Facebook.
There has also been a move to protect customers further via the ‘one-click delay repay’ option, which allows for expedited compensation for delays of more than 30 minutes.
LNER says it has also made sure commuters can pre-book spaces via a dedicated parking app and reserve a seat on the train using the Seat Sure scheme. LNER has also set aside a number of seats in standard and first class to allow for an easier ‘walk-up’ railway service.
To complement this, LNER says it has invested in 360 specialist cleaning staff to oversee hygiene in the COVID-19 climate.
LNER managing director David Horne, said: “Over the past 16 months of the pandemic, we have grasped hold of every opportunity to innovate, invest and improve for the benefit of our customers.
“Our ambition is to truly transform rail travel in the UK and we believe that this pioneering approach is key as we look to welcome customers back to rail.
“We’re incredibly excited to see how our customers react and take advantage of the changes we’ve introduced, which run right through the customer experience – from booking to onboard to the station facilities.”
LNER says it is the first to implement an ‘at-seat’ catering option, which allows passengers in standard class to pay for food and drink with their phones whilst on the train. There is also a new customer loyalty scheme which allows benefits to be used as part of the journey, passed on to friends and family, or given as gifts to charity.
Outside the direct customer experience, LNER has implemented new AI to manage disruption. The system, by JNCTION, acts as disruptions happen.