The new franchise starts on 20 August 2017. Here’s everything you need to know about how the new franchise will impact the business, your role as an employee, and our customers.
About the new franchise
FirstGroup is a leading transport operator in the UK and North America. Within the rail industry we are known for running Great Western Railway, TransPennine Express and Hull Trains, the later recently winning Rail operator of the year. MTR are an experienced operator of railway services around the world. In the UK they previously ran the London Overground network and have recently started operating Crossrail services in London.
We’re just adding the final touches to the new brand, getting it all finalised then we’ll be ready to reveal to employees and our customers. There are some images and logos flying around the internet at the moment. Unfortunately, we can take credit for none of these however good some of them are.
Keep an eye on our official channels for any brand announcements
We’re hoping to keep HQ at Friar’s Bridge Court. Whatever happens, we will have an HQ office close to Waterloo.
What it means for our employees
New franchises do mean change. At the same time, our plans build on solid foundations and they avoid change for change’s sake. For a lot of people across the business, not a great deal will change. We’ll make an effort to involve these people by letting them know how things are developing and getting their ideas. For some people, the changes will affect them and we’ll ensure their views and ideas are taken into account before any plans and drawn up. Where changes are proposed to people’s jobs we will consult appropriately.
Will my contract/salary be the same?
As an employees of South West Trains you will automatically become an employee of the new franchise at the point of transfer. You’ll carry with you your continuous service, and will continue to enjoy the same terms and conditions of employment with us.
What happens to my pension?
As far as the main Railway Pension Scheme shared cost sections (South West Trains and Island Line) are concerned, pensions will transfer over to FirstGroup and MTR and we aim to keep all pension details the same. We won’t be able to give specific answers to questions people may have until we review every pension but be assured we will try to keep things as they are.
What benefits do FirstGroup/MTR offer?
We offer a range of benefits including savings plans, discount schemes at a range of high street and online retailers and role specific benefits.
What travel benefits will you offer?
Current employees will receive free travel across the new franchise for them, their spouse / partner and eligible dependents; in addition to discounts across other train operating companies provided by the Rail Delivery Group TOC Privilege Card. We’ll also offer travel benefits across the other companies that we operate as well as review existing discretionary travel benefits you currently receive. There will be no changes to travel arrangements for safeguarded staff.
What training and development opportunities will be available?
We’re passionate about giving you the opportunity to develop your skills and progress your journey with us, and there will be development opportunities across the business.. We’ll also introduce an innovative approach to learning, introducing a Learning Management System which will supplement the training you receive in the classroom and on demand, giving you course content whenever you want it.
Will you be introducing DOO/DCO?
Our bid proposals do not rely on driver controlled operation, and it was not mandated in the invitation to tender. Any changes we might make would be subject to consultation in the normal way, as you would expect.
What is happening to our uniform?
Front line staff will be supplied with updated accessories reflecting the new brand on day 1 of the new franchise. We’ll then run a consultation with staff to gather your views on what you would like your uniform to be. This initiative has been successful when run previously in GWR, with staff happier with their resulting uniform.
How we’ll be improving the network
We’ll be introducing 90 new trains on Reading, Windsor and London routes by December 2020. As well as this, we’ll be refurbishing existing trains with charging sockets and seat covers.
We’ll be introducing new trains and refurbishing old ones to make to on board experience better. This includes free on-board wifi, at seat charging points and improved toilets.
We’re making improvements across the network including installing wifi at all stations, refurbishing waiting rooms and improving accessibility. In addition, we’ll be significantly investing to improve Southampton Central station for staff and the community that it serves. We’ll also be giving passengers at stations live information on seating availability, letting passengers know where best to stand to board emptier carriages.
How will you deal with the improvements of Waterloo station that take place when the new franchise starts?
We will work with all relevant parties to make sure there is a smooth transition between Stagecoach and ourselves, minimising disruption as much as we can for customers and staff.
What is happening to the Island Line?
We’ll be working closely with local Isle of Wight bodies to develop a business plan to create a more sustainable line and better service for our passengers.