Hourly trains link Birmingham with Stansted Airport through Leicester, Peterborough, March and Cambridge. Trains have become more reliable in recent years with far fewer cancellations than in the past. Air-conditioning and public address systems are effective.
There has been significant investment in the lowest quality units. New electrical systems have improved availability. Selective door opening allows long trains to serve short platforms. Conductors can now open doors without having to walk to their cab from where they are working in the train.
Catering trolleys are advertised on several journeys between Birmingham and Peterborough. To be viable, catering needs to be dependable.
The trains are mostly clean and attempts have been made to tackle the ceilings.
The biggest issue facing passengers along this route is capacity. Growth has returned to the route after recession, increasing the need for more seats. We believe that no passenger should normally have to stand for more than 20 minutes. Staff regularly count passengers and some resources have been re-allocated as a result.
But the route does now require more vehicles, either to run longer trains where they are over-crowded or to run more trains, increasing service frequency and attractiveness. So we enthusiastically welcome plans to provide 80 more seats on the 0519 and 1522 trains from Birmingham from December 2016, helping passengers going to work in Cambridge and home from working in Leicester or Peterborough.
We also welcome the intention to provide an extra morning train from Cambridge, reaching Leicester at 0815 and to extend to Cambridge the 1752 from Birmingham from December 2017 as a precursor to possible increased frequency from December 2020. Some of those who travel from March to work in Cambridge are particularly keen to see a later train home.
We see a clear need for a “whole route” approach to engineering access with trains running on Sundays in university terms a priority. Diversions are available for most sections of the route but add significantly to journey times.
We also need a constant focus on minimising cancellations and on delivering high standards of passenger information and customer service.
Our vision is of welcoming stations, where facilities meet or exceed all government targets for their size. The performance of station facility operators in providing toilets, waiting rooms and retail advice at the specified times needs to be robustly monitored and challenged.