The acting was believable, toe- curlingly so at times. Gary Flint, who works at Woodford station on the Central line, volunteered to go first for a grilling, carefully measuring his responses, trying not to make promises that he couldn’t keep. But is there a danger that a network- wide training programme could suggest that something’s wrong. That LU believes its staff don’t know how to engage with passengers? ‘Our staff are not bad at customer service,’ said Xavier. ‘The vast majority of our staff are excellent at customer service. I don’t want to make it sound like our staff are in need of remedial training.’ Xavier said the training programme signalled a new approach to customer service within London Underground and something that gives staff confidence to deal with the significant changes taking place. In reality, customer satisfaction levels are higher than they’ve ever been. He added, ‘This is big change and big change is challenging especially in an organisation that doesn’t change that regularly, that easily. ‘Around a third of people are going to be working in different locations, the way we do rosters is changing, grades that have been unaffected since company plans in the early 90s are changing; that understandably creates anxiety because change takes time. ‘Anxiety about where am I going to work, who am I going to be working for. ‘Now we’ve given guarantees to staff, we’ve guaranteed there will be no compulsory redundancies. Everyone’s got a job if they want one. Guarantee on salary and no one will be required to move more than 30 minutes from their station.’ Visitor centres By the middle of 2016, almost 5,000 members of station staff will have completed the five-day course. To signal the change, staff are being issued with new uniforms, eight new visitor centres are opening and 150 additional ticket machines are being installed. Brightening up the travel centres makes the stations more pleasant, more attractive but it also serves a functional purpose. At King’s Cross, for example, hesitant international visitors, who may otherwise have joined the queue for the ticket office, are now funnelled towards the travel centre instead. ‘I’m not going to pretend that it’s all gone amazingly smooth and we’re working to understand and tweak and refine,’ said Xavier. Queensway and South Wimbledon closed in February, followed by Shepherd’s Bush and King’s Cross. But in many stations it isn’t just a case of shutting up ticket offices and relying on the existing facilities. New ticket machines are being installed in some stations to replace any lost capacity, but the bigger issue LU has lies around machine reliability. LU has already engaged manufacturer Cubic to update its ticketing software. Says Xavier, ‘We don’t believe that bulletproof glass, people trapped in an office, is the way to serve customers. ‘Instead it’s about people coming out into the ticket hall and doing what people do best, which isn’t just pushing buttons on a machine but it’s giving human help and being proactive. ‘We don’t want people doing what machines do. We want people doing what people do.’ But LU staff will at least have to work in harmony with technology. Every member of station staff is being given an iPad. For some it will be an overdue vital tool and for others another thing to master. ‘We’ve always had this issue where customers knew about any disruptions before we did,’ said Jahangir Miah, a project coordinator for the training programme. The iPads are pre-loaded with apps for ticketing and service information. Says Jahangir, ‘Once the announcements were made, everyone was very nervous about how the changes would be implemented and the impact it would have on everybody. And you have the same thing when you come into the training programme on day one, but I’ve seen that most of the staff that leave on day five, they feel like they’ve gone away with more confidence.’ Confidence could be key. If this change gives station staff a little more confidence in their skills, confidence in their knowledge of the network, it will ultimately result in a better service for passengers. Archive photo courtesy of Transport for London Collection of London Transport Museum.
The facility will become TMH's only production site in Africa. It will be used to assemble, maintain and refurbish diesel and electric locomotives as well as coaches for South Africa and the rest of the continent.