We need to keep track of the promises that Stagecoach made in their original press release when they were awarded their franchise. They've already broken three of them. Updated to include any lies or marketing mistruths we discover
Free WiFi on board
They promised: New technology – new website, smartphone apps, interactive touchscreen information points at major stations, portable technology for staff, free WiFi on trains and stations. of course the apps and WiFi in stations that doesn't have it wouldn't be ready for day one, but WiFi is already on the trains and when National Express operated East Coast they made it free from day one so it is possible
Nectar points on catering purchases
They promised: Bean to cup coffee introduced and passengers able to claim Nectar points on all Foodbar purchases. Now OK here at Save East Coast Rewards we don't like Nectar but it was a promise that they made and have broken. I checked with staff and they told me it was not possible and also it states in the FAQ that You cannot collect points on items purchased on board, such as food and drink from the on board catering facilities. One thing I was told when I said they should scrap Nectar and keep East Coast Rewards was that they'd already promised their customers Nectar, seems a promise is one they only partially kept
New booking tool
Here's one promise I'm glad they didn't keep: New booking tool launched to make it easier for customers to book the best value tickets and find the perfect seat to meet their needs. Unless by new they meant rebranding it red. The current site works well and as far as I know the only other booking engine is the one used by thetrainline
Their plans for improvements page shows some of the promises are a long way off. Free station WiFi won't be completed until May 2016, the amazing coffee machines they promised us won't be here until August 2016, the innovative mobile app won't be ready until the new trains arrive in 2018.
Reintroduction of Freshly Cooked Breakfasts
Ever since I've been travelling on the line I've been able to enjoy a hot breakfast on board. Prior to 2011 this was in the restaurant and after that was complimentary at-seat to first class passengers. However a recent Stagecoach press release states : Virgin Trains East Coast is also planning to bring back freshly cooked breakfasts for all its First Class customers as part of a series of catering improvements planned over the next two years. There will also be new menus designed by regional chefs, and customers will be asked personally for their feedback and suggestions. (will the feedback be collected in the same way as that for the Nectar scheme?). This has been picked up by some members of the press, one including a direct quote from David Horne.
Many of you will know that East Coast has offered a complimentary hot breakfast and on many trains this is freshly prepared by a chef, although some services the chef is not present and on these services the items are heated in ovens by the on-board crew. At the time I had read David Horne's comments I was not aware that this was the case as a chef has been on the services that I use. However, even so I think this quote was deliberately intended to mislead giving the impression that East Coast offered no hot breakfast and that Virgin was bringing it back. This is certainly how the press represented it. If he'd said he was getting chefs on every train to improve the current hot breakfast offering then that would have been a fair statement.
Minority shareholder Richard Branson says he wants the East Coast 'to sing' like the West Coast in an article in the Northern Echo. Well some of us already believe East Coast is better than West Coast so if we become 'as good as' West Coast that's a drop in quality. Here's what he said:
Compare it to the West Coast. When we took that over, it was run down and fairly dilapidated and sad, and staff were demoralised. But we invested in rolling stock, transformed it, and have doubled the number of people using it.
We hope we can do the same with the East Coast by replacing the old rolling stock to give workers something they can be proud of, and passengers something they can enjoy using. We will try to make it sing like the West Coast.
Business fares are more expensive, but that helps subsidise low fares for the vast majority. We are going to take on more customer facing people because that is really important too.
I agree with what he said about West Coast but East Coast was never like that. We had good stock and motivated staff at the start of privatisation and this was carried on well with GNER. The mess that was NXEC did dampen morale but it increased again with East Coast. For Richard Branson to say these things was an insult to Karen Boswell (David Horne's predecessor) and all the hard working East Coast staff over the years. He's no people's champion like he tries to portray himself, just a normal businessman who's happy to say anything to suit their agenda