Charles Horton, Chief Executive Officer, GTR

Frankie Johnson

Charles Horton is the Chief Executive Officer of Govia Thameslink Railway. He has extensive management experience gained at London Underground, Connex and with his current employer Govia. He will be joining our panel discussion at Accelerate: Rail 2018 to share insights on competing for tomorrow’s customers.

“GTR is at the forefront of technological progress in the rail industry.”

What role is GTR playing in contributing to the modernisation of the UK rail network?

GTR is the UK’s largest rail franchise and it is playing a pivotal role in modernising the rail network in London and the South-East. Our four rail brands – Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern – cover the busiest part of the UK rail network and it has come under increasing pressure due to a doubling of passenger demand in the past 16 years. We are delivering a huge modernisation programme that involves upgrading infrastructure, technology and working practices at the same time. As part of this programme we are introducing new Thameslink trains designed to carry large numbers of people operating at high frequency through central London. Passengers will also benefit from major infrastructure works as part of the £7bn Thameslink programme, notably new signalling and the upgrade of London Bridge station. We are also updating working practices with greater use of driver controlled trains doors using in cab CCTV, which means better services for customers and fewer cancellations.

What opportunities does new technology offer within rail, and how is GTR capturing these?

GTR is at the forefront of technological progress in the rail industry. The Thameslink route through the heart of London is being equipped with digital signalling technology which will enable automatic train operation. This will allow us to achieve a huge increase in capacity on this busy route meaning more reliable and comfortable journeys for our customers. Our new Thameslink trains feature advanced diagnostic systems which enable Siemens maintainers to get to the root of problems more quickly and even predict them before they cause a delay to passengers. In partnership with Network Rail we are investing in technologies which will help those people running the railway on a minute by minute basis to make faster and better decisions that minimise delays when things go wrong. The use of these different but nonetheless complementary technologies will allow us to boost reliability even as train frequency increases. It means more services to, through and beyond London with Tube-like frequencies of a train every 2-3 minutes in central London. Passenger information is also vastly improving and all our new trains are equipped with digital signage, displaying live travel updates and indicating space available on-board.

How can TOCs ensure they maintain momentum in terms of retaining and growing their customer engagement/satisfaction?

Customers want their journeys to be reliable, comfortable and hassle free. We all need to focus on delivering the fundamental promise we make to get people from A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible. But customers also want the level of service they get to match up to their expectations; so friendly welcoming staff, simpler ticketing, the ability to relax or work whilst travelling and good information, especially when things go wrong are all vital ingredients of what we must offer. In my business we talk about “always making it easier for customers” and challenge each other daily on whether we are meeting this objective.

Why is it important to attend Accelerate: Rail 2018  and what can delegates expect to hear from you?

GTR’s owners Go Ahead and Keolis are no strangers to taking on ambitious and challenging transport projects across the globe and under the political spotlight. Delegates will be able to gain an insight into the challenges that Britain’s biggest rail franchise – accounting for one in five of all UK rail journeys – faces at the leading edge of a modernisation programme whose success is critical to the nation’s economic prosperity.

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