Staff at Brighton and Hove’s main train operator Southern were celebrating today after the company triumphed in four categories at the National Rail Awards.
The four categories were
- Putting Passengers First
- Medium Station of the Year
- Small Station of the Year
The final category was a joint win with Bombardier and Network Rail.
In the Putting Passengers First category, Southern won for acting on passenger suggestions by introducing a Priority Seat Card.
The card is designed to help passengers who are disabled, elderly, pregnant or carrying infants to get a seat on busy trains.
It is particularly effective for those whose need for a seat is not always obvious and since its introduction, in September 2009, the number of cardholders has doubled and continues to increase.
The judges said of the Priority Seat Card: “This simple piece of card has transformed the lives of many passengers.
“Perhaps all transport operators should take this up.”
Passenger Focus chief executive and chair of the judging panel for the Putting Passengers First Award, Anthony Smith, said: “Southern Railway’s scheme takes away what can be an awkward situation for both the passenger who needs the seat and the passenger confronted.”
Southern, which employs 4,000 staff, said that it broke two records at the rail awards last night.
It is the first train operator in the history of the event to scoop four awards in one year and the first to win two station award categories – for Eastbourne and Bexhill.
Southern’s managing director Chris Burchell said “I am delighted that we have been recognised so comprehensively for our achievements this year.
“To break two records in one night is fantastic.”
In the Innovation category, Southern, together with train manufacturer, Bombardier, and rail infrastructure owner, Network Rail, won for finding a solution to an age-old problem. They tackled the icing of the third “conductor” rail in cold weather which hampers trains when trying to draw electricity for traction.
Their answer was to modify software on the train to enable an enhanced ice mode operation.
As a result, during the bad weather in early 2009, power failures on ice-coated rails fell by more than 80 per cent.
The judges pointed out that this solution was “1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration” and praised the partnership for overcoming complex issues to do with software, safety considerations and train modification before it could be implemented.
Mr Burchell added: “To win four awards and be finalists in four other categories is a fantastic achievement and testament to all that we at Southern have achieved in the last year.
“The people who have benefitted most from all of these achievements are, of course, our passengers who rightly deserve the very best stations, trains and levels of service.”