Since opening in 1987, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) has grown to become the UK’s busiest light rail network, carrying over 117m customers each year.

In December 2014, a partnership between international public transport operator Keolis and infrastructure specialist Amey was awarded the franchise to operate and maintain the network on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) until 2021.

Since taking over, KeolisAmey Docklands (KAD) has introduced a range of improvements to customer service, operations and the network’s physical infrastructure. Working closely with TfL, the partners have succeeded in maintaining the network’s industry-leading 99% departures record, while boosting customer satisfaction to an annual rate of 89%, an all-time high for the network.

Thinking Like a Customer

Improving customer satisfaction has been at the heart of every new development that KAD has implemented at the DLR.

In keeping with Keolis’ ethos of ‘thinking like a customer’, all team members have been given new training to ensure that everyone, regardless of their role, understands how their actions affect customer satisfaction.

In a first for the network, KAD has introduced a new team of dedicated customer service advisors who are deployed at stations to welcome passengers and provide information and support. In addition, a detailed, operational 26-scenario action plan for communicating with customers at peak periods and times of disruption has been introduced.

In tandem with these new approaches, KAD has also enhanced revenue protection across the network, increasing the number of ticket checks from 2% to over 18% of passengers per day. By providing revenue protection teams with focused training on how to create positive customer interactions, KAD has reduced ticket evasion while maintaining high customer satisfaction.

These investments have led to an increase in customer satisfaction on the network. Analysing data from Transport for London’s Customer Satisfaction Survey, allows KAD to respond to feedback and make interventions on the network quickly. This approach has succeeded in setting a new high watermark for satisfaction on the network, with scores under KAD’s often exceeding 90%.

Planning for the Future

Like all modern railways, the DLR faces the need to increase capacity in-line with sustained growth in passenger numbers. With no new rolling stock scheduled to be introduced on the network until 2022, and passenger numbers expected to rise by 40% in the same period, KAD went above and beyond its contractual requirements to research and propose new solutions.

Drawing on Keolis’ expertise in running high-density urban transport networks across the world, the partners used TfL’s ten-year passenger forecasts to produce a new model for timetabling. Using the same methodology that delivered radical improvements to public transport capacity in French cities like Bordeaux and Rennes – Keolis and Amey have provided TfL with a range of new options to help futureproof the network.

Investing in People

With so many developments happening across the service, it is vital that staff have the skills to implement them correctly. To support this, KAD has restructured staff training and processes, from introducing new Personal Development Reviews to investing in a series of training qualifications across the entire operational and engineering workforce.

So far, 119 managers across the business have been put through training with the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and 148 members of staff have been provided with new health and safety/accident investigation (IOSH) training. This investment in staff is set to continue, with the recruitment of 90 new members of staff, mainly across engineering and service delivery to help meet the growing demands of the network.

This new approach to learning and development, alongside upgrades to mess rooms and improvements to internal communications, has led to employee engagement rising from 29% in 2015 to 48% in 2016 according to an independent audit.

Harnessing Data to Drive Engineering Excellence

One of the most significant developments KAD has introduced to the DLR is a new £4m asset management system. DLR Metro is a fully integrated enterprise asset and safety management system, which provides KAD’s engineers and operational staff with access to a level of data about business performance, asset reliability, efficiency and safety, which has never been available on the network before.

The system has been designed to enable KAD to continually analyse performance and make improvements for the long term. It is another example of how Keolis, Amey and TfL are working together to invest in DLR’s future for years to come.