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Embedding a customer focussed Vision

Transport | Vision, Values and Strategy

Growth Needs Assessment

Northern Rail Ltd was established in 2003 when a 50:50 joint venture between Serco and NedRailways, (now called Abellio) won the contract to operate local train services in the North. This area had previously been served by two separate franchises, Arriva in the north-west and First in the north-east and the new franchise became the largest in the UK, at the time, with almost 5,000 employees.

Northern did not exist until the franchise was won, and only then as a limited company, and therefore there was nothing tangible for customers or employees to engage with. Whilst the safety and reliability of the train service was maintained, customers did not know who to turn to when things went wrong, and employees behaved as they still worked for their previous employees. 

Journey4 set out to develop a new, compelling vision for the franchise that would set the long-term agenda for its development and be equally engaging for customers, employees, and other stakeholders. 

Our Approach

The vision was developed following an extensive engagement exercise with the Department of Transport, numerous regional stakeholders, (RDA’s, Councils, PTE’s, etc.) and focus groups with customer and front-line employees.

This vision focused on the role of local rail services in promoting economic development, social mobility, and environmental sustainability in the region. Our approach throughout was to shift the focus from running trains to providing a service to passengers and the public, which was a transformational shift.

Our own framework for managing and growing service organisations, known as the 4E’s framework, was introduced at the start to identify the sort of areas that would have to change, and our organisational alignment model was used for Vision, Values and Strategy development. We designed a two-year transformation programme including organisational development and further development of the operating model, and targeted service improvement initiatives.

Impact of our work

The Northern brand was introduced on a gradual basis from 2005 and the new vision, values and strategy were launched from 2006, along with an entirely new focus on customers, (and how their expectations are met) and people, (and how they are managed and developed).

The Northern Rail franchise became one of the most successful with a high-performing leadership team which we had coached to become more customer-focused and effective. Their client, DfT was happy and several of the regional stakeholders became engaged and actively contributed significant funding towards the development of the franchise.The two shareholders Serco and NedRailways were also pleased, subsequently engaging Journey4 to work on their own strategic development as well as future rail bids.