Trains are increasingly frequent, attracting more customers – a result of long-term planning.
In 2015 72.4 million journeys were made with the NSB Group’s passenger trains. In Norway the number of journeys has increased by 26 per cent in the last four years. Why so many more people choose to use the train, especially to and from work, can be traced back to planned improvements that started in 2005.
“We saw that population growth over the coming years would be very high, especially in Eastern Norway. We had to change our way of thinking. How do we ensure that as many as possible choose environmentally friendly trains? The solution we proposed, a ten-minute frequency between Asker and Lillestrøm, either side of Oslo, was proclaimed wishful thinking”, remembers Excecutive Vice President for NSB passenger train operations Tom Ingulstad.
“Our planners did not give up, ignoring the sceptics. With a new double track under construction in the western corridor out of Oslo, this frequency could be achieved with some small adjustments. But there was one clear requirement: we needed new trains. Many new trains”, states Ingulstad.
I don’t need to keep an eye on the time, there is always a train.”Lars Magnus Øksnes, daily commuter Lillestrøm-Oslo
We got trains. In 2007 NSB ordered the first new trains of type 74/75, better known as the Swiss Flirt trains. Reliable, comfortable, environmentally friendly and quiet, these trains have room for many new train passengers.
You no longer have to look at your watch before going to the station. The trains run all the time.Tom Ingulstad, Excecutive Vice President for NSB passenger train operations
Then, in 2012, the new timetable was ready for roll-out. Train passengers in the Oslo region were offered more frequent train departures, and every third week a new train was put into operation. The culmination of planned improvements was reached when Høvik station opened in December 2015. Finally the vision of train departures every ten minutes between Asker and Lillestrøm was a reality.
“You no longer have to look at your watch before going to the station. The trains run all the time”, says Ingulstad.
Also Sørlandsbanen, the south coast line, and Trønderbanen, serving Trondheim, have increased departure frequencies. When Follobanen, running south out of Oslo, opens in 2021, increased train services will be possible there too.
“More capacity is absolutely necessary. We know that an increasing number of people will travel by train in the years to come. That is why we continue to purchase new trains. Late last year we received the go-ahead to purchase much needed trains for both the Bergen – Voss line(Vossebanen) and the Oslo – Gjøvik line (Gjøvikbanen)”, says Ingulstad.
If as many people as possible are to choose to travel by train, it must be simple. NSB’s app has been downloaded 1.4 million times. One in four customers purchases their ticket using the app.
“Most of us have our mobile with us at all times, and now customers can use their phone both to plan their journey, to purchase their ticket and check if the train is on time. Additional services like free newspapers, audiobooks, music and podcasts are also available on the app”, says the leader for sales and business development, NSB passenger rail operations, Kristin Kjøge Jansson.
Many train passengers use other modes of transport on their way to and from their destination. We need to make it easy for them to plan their entire trip, which is why we launched Tidr.no.Kristin Kjøge Jansson, Leader for sales and business development, NSB passenger rail operations
NSB continuously develop new digital solutions based on customer trends and in-depth knowledge of customer requirements. During autumn 2015 the new national travel planner Tidr.no was launched. Here you get an overview of all the country’s public transport services, irrespective of mode of transport.
“Many train passengers use other modes of transport on their way to and from their destination. We need to make it easy for them to plan their entire trip, which is why we launched Tidr.no”, says Kjøge Jansson.
So the question is: do digital solutions and more frequent departures mean anything to the customer? The answer is definitely yes. The increased number of train journeys speaks for itself, but customer satisfaction is also on the increase, albeit from a fairly low level. Five years ago customer satisfaction was at 65 points.
“This result was too low, and showed that NSB had a lot of work to do. The customer satisfaction survey shows that customer satisfaction is now at 73 points for 2015, and we’re aiming for further improvements. There is still a lot to work with, but the figures show that it pays to invest in customer-friendly solutions”, says Ingulstad.
Not surprisingly, customers are most dissatisfied with NSB when disruptions occur.
“They want better information and they want us to come up with alternatives quickly, so that they can get where they are going as quickly as possible”, says director in NSB East Øivind Leet.
The railway is to undergo major developments for many years to come. Good for the customers in the long term, but it also means that train services are suspended for certain periods while the work is being done. NSB therefore cooperates closely with Jernbaneverket (the Norwegian National Rail Administration), Statens vegvesen (Norwegian Public Roads Administration), Ruter (Oslo region tram, bus and metro) and other transport organisations to ensure practical alternatives when the trains are not running.
“Unfortunately we experience too often that trains are hindered because of signalling problems, power outages, track breakages or technical faults on the trains. We work hard to provide information to customers on alternative transport to help get them to their destination. Our efforts will intensify further in the years to come”, says Leet.
We understand that it is annoying when the train is not punctual. We will continue to look for better solutions for our customers.Øivind Leet, Director NSB East
At peak hour 10,000 customers take the train from Oslo S. As bus capacity at Oslo S is 40 buses an hour – i.e. 2,000 passengers – it is an enormous challenge when faults occur unexpectedly on the railway.
When the train runs on time and customers are well informed, then the train is a success.
“We know we succeed when we listen to the customers. We need to purchase more trains, to run these more frequently, ensure relevant information is available to customers and make it easier to find travel information and purchase tickets. If we manage this, then we know that it is an easy choice to leave the car at home and take the train instead”, says passenger rail director Tom Ingulstad.
Bus drivers are known for their good humour, or so says the Norwegian nursery rhyme. Based on the Swedish quality index survey, this is not just a cliché: Nettbuss Bus4You in Sweden is the public transport customer’s favourite for the fifth consecutive year. Neither metro, trains nor planes have beaten the bus.
According to the survey, simplicity, flexibility and accessibility are the recipe for success. This does not only apply to the actual journey, but the whole experience, such as being able to purchase tickets without fuss, and then get to and from the station and terminal quickly and easily. Transport companies must think about the entire journey as experienced by the customer, concludes Swedish quality index.
Nettbuss Bus4You runs commercial express routes in both Sweden and between Sweden, Norway and Denmark. How do they themselves explain why customers are so satisfied?
“We emphasize that our customers are taken care of and treated as guests.. A bus driver is not only a driver, but also a host who ensures his customers have a pleasant experience while on the bus”, says Mats Johansson, CEO of Nettbuss Express AB.
We emphasize that our customers are taken care of and treated as guests.Mats Johansson, CEO of Nettbuss Express AB
This also means that Nettbuss Bus4You offers the most pleasurable journey on the market. The buses are spacious and have comfortable leather seats. Large windows give good views of the countryside. Power sockets at each seat and wireless Wi-Fi are givens.
Nettbuss has systematically instilled throughout the organisation how to ensure passengers a pleasant journey whether in Norway or Sweden. It is no coincidence that our bus drivers have an agreeable driving style, with controlled acceleration and deceleration. Buses are equipped to analyse both the technical condition of the bus, its environmental impact and the driver’s way of driving.
The system provides continuous feedback on the driver’s style through an indicator on the dashboard, and logs each individual driver. The data is collected in a report showing how driving may be improved.
Bus driver Espen Hoel from Gjøvik has driven buses for about ten years now. He uses the system actively to ensure that he drives the way customers prefer.
It is especially nice when people fall asleep in the bus, because then you know that they feel safe with you behind the wheel.Espen Hoel, Bus driver Gjøvik
“Customers notice the smoother driving style. They should not really notice that I brake at all. There are many who have come and thanked me for a very comfortable bus journey. It is especially nice when people fall asleep in the bus, because then you know that they feel safe with you behind the wheel”, he says.
When the system was adopted in Gjøvik about two years ago, each driver had approximately 17 alerts in the system each month. This has now been reduced to 4-5 alerts. Espen Hoel drove 11 out of 12 months in 2015 without a single alert.
“It is not only our customers who appreciate a calmer driving pattern, clean and pleasant buses and service-minded drivers. In 2015 Nettbuss received bonuses from several of the contracting municipalities around Norway on these specific points”, says Arne Veggeland, CEO in Nettbuss. Contracting entities in many municipalities conduct such surveys and it is most motivating to see that Nettbuss time and time again beats our competitors and delivers a better product for our customers.
Moreover, it is environmentally friendly to drive in the manner preferred by our customers. Buses use less fuel which in turn reduces emissions. Calmer driving is also safer and reduces the risk of accidents. This is good for everybody.
When enough people choose the bus, this helps prevent disruption caused by traffic jams in steadily. The Swedish university city of Lund is a very good example of this. Lund has well over 115 000 inhabitants, and the population has grown steadily in recent years. Yet they have managed what many other cities have not, namely to get people to leave the car at home. This is largely down to the Nettbuss Stadsbussarna (city buses).
The number of journeys increased by 36 per cent.Gustav Jansson, head of Nettbuss Stadsbussarna
With over 10 million journeys on city buses in 2015 and a growth of 13 per cent, the bus sets new records each year. Traffic counts show that there is a reduction in car usage. The figures are so outstanding that elected officials and public employees from throughout the Nordic countries visit Lund to learn what it takes to reduce car use.
“Working with our client Skånetrafiken we have increased bus services. On some routes, there is now a seven-minute frequency and here the number of journeys increased by 36 per cent”, says Gustav Jansson, head of Nettbuss Stadsbussarna.
“We have achieved a fantastic result in a very short time”, agrees Fredrik Schell, senior traffic developer at Skånetrafiken. A sharp increase in both service provision and marketing has paid off, to the envy of other cities.
Ultimately, it’s about seeing the customer. In Lund, the customer is often travelling to the centre, where the streets are narrow, and car parking is costly. When the bus is so frequent, the choice is simple.
This way of thinking is reciprocated by Nettbuss and their Norwegian contracting authorities. Current experience shows: frequent bus services result in more passengers.
Considering customers’ needs, both in long-term planning and in daily operations, produces results, whether by bus or by train.Arne Veggeland, CEO Nettbuss
“Customer orientation in both long-term planning and daily operations produces results, whether we drive a bus or a train. Customers become more and more satisfied. This contributes to more people choosing to travel in a more environmentally friendly manner by leaving the car at home”, says CEO in Nettbuss Arne Veggeland.
Commuter Goteborg-Oslo by bus and train
Actually I prefer trains to buses, but Bus4You works very well and the departures suit me perfectly. There is ample room, the double decker is very comfortable allowing me to work throughout the journey.
Commuter Oslo-Lillehammer, student
I always sit in the quiet carriage. Here I read a book or listen to podcasts. It’s a comfortable way to travel, it is as if time stands still. The train services suit me, and I use the ticket app to book my tickets. It makes everything much easier.
Commuter Oslo-Ås, student
I find it comfortable to read both on the train and at the station. I find the new trains much better than the previous trains. I use my mobile phone a lot, so internet and power socket on the trains make travelling much easier.