In 2016, VR introduced a number of important customer-oriented reforms aimed at strengthening the competitiveness of long-distance train traffic.
In February, train fares were lowered permanently by an average of 25 per cent and pricing was simplified. In June, long-distance train timetables were adjusted so that the number of fast and direct services could be increased. As a result of the changes, there has been a strong increase in the number of long-distance train passengers and trains are also running fuller: The filling rate on VR's network has increased from 35 to more than 40 per cent and the number of journeys between large cities by more than 10 per cent. The business operations efficiency programme launched in 2015 is proceeding according to plan and the savings target of EUR 50 million set for long-distance traffic is in the process of being met.
As a result of the budget cuts introduced by the Government, oblige and contract services were substantially reduced in March 2016. In December 2016, some of these services were reinstated as loss-making oblige traffic operated by VR. The decision on the services made by the Ministry of Transport and Communications will be in effect for one year. At the same time and in accordance with customers’ wishes, VR also introduced a number of new commercial train services.
In commuter traffic, VR and HSL concluded a five-year operating and maintenance agreement, which entered into force on 1 April 2016. The new agreement is a step towards competitive tendering in HSL commuter traffic, which will be introduced in 2021. VR will continue its commuter traffic reform programme during the agreement period and is also preparing for the tendering process. VR launched a new mobile application for its commuter services, which provides customers with a flexible way of purchasing tickets in zone area traffic.
Avecra achieved a turnaround in its sales by focusing on service and by overhauling its organisation. The increase was particularly noticeable in restaurant cars. All personnel took part in sales training, which will continue in 2017. Since summer 2016, restaurant services have been provided on all long-distance trains.
Pohjolan Kaupunkiliikenne, the Groups’bus company, won a number of bus service contracts in the HSL region. Traffic on the services was started in autumn 2016 and it also meant that 170 new bus drivers were recruited and 59 new buses purchased. The new depot is under construction at Veturitie in Helsinki and the operations are expected to be moved to the new facility in spring 2017.
In 2017, the focus will be on both digital and personal service
VR aims to achieve a significant digital leap in 2017 by updating its background systems, vr.fi online shop, VR Mobile, ticket vending machines and the vending equipment used by conductors. Digital services are becoming increasingly individualised and offer smoother and more comprehensive services. At the same time, a development and training programme for customer service personnel working on trains and at stations is underway. The aim in the programme is to achieve comprehensive improvements in service levels.
of all train tickets are purchased in the online shop, on mobile channels, and other self-service channels.
The introduction of a new customer service model in summer 2017 will mean substantial changes in VR commuter services. Under the new model, train crew members rotate between trains and serve customers in pairs. Even though tickets will no longer be sold on commuter trains, there will still be conductors on board providing customer service (advice, information and ticket control).
VR is developing restaurant services on long-distance trains. VR is working on a completely new concept in which the range of products on sale in restaurant cars will be updated and expanded, while at the same time, the restaurant ambience will be made more pleasant. The year 2017 has seen the start of the work to refurbish the Exra Class services in the restaurant.
VR is introducing travel chains to Finland. The aim is to create a seamless travel experience and a comprehensive service network with a number of different partners. A number of trial projects will take place during 2017 and the journey search will also be improved so that it will supplement the existing train services.
Feedback, refund claims and compensation claims
VR receives a large amount of feedback from its customers. All contacts by customers are important and they are carefully considered in the continuous development process.
- In 2016, VR processed a total of 46,392 customer feedback contacts and 11,880 refund claims submitted under the EU railway traffic liability regulation. Each refund claim received by VR was processed and the reply was sent to the customer within an average of 10-11 days. The refund and compensation claims are processed in accordance with the Rail Transport Act and the EU’s Railway Traffic Liability Regulation.
- As in previous years, most of the feedback and compensation claims concerned the punctuality of train services. To improve punctuality, VR is cooperating closely with the Finnish Transport Agency and HSL (Helsinki Region Transport), a joint authority of the region's municipalities. The parties are also working together to improve customer communications during traffic disruptions.
Feedback from train customers, pcs
Feedback from train customers, %