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Gatwick Express celebrates 35 years of service

The team at Gatwick Express are preparing for birthday celebrations with passengers, staff and airport partners to mark 35 years of operations.

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Customer Service Host Antonio Tapia welcomes a passenger at the Gatwick Express portal at London Victoria

The Gatwick Express came into full service on 14 May 1984, transporting passengers from London Victoria to Gatwick Airport. The service was initially formed of Class 73 trains with specially modified coaches to carry passenger luggage.

Since launch, Gatwick Express has evolved; in 2007 the service was extended to and from Brighton, became part of the UK’s biggest rail franchise, Govia Thameslink Railway, in 2015, and saw a £145m fleet renewal programme in 2016.

At London Victoria on Tuesday morning, the team will be surprising passengers with limited edition organic tote bags with a string quartet serenading arrivals. A magician will also be on board a number of Gatwick Express services throughout the day, entertaining passengers with some close-up magic.

At Gatwick the team will be giving away cupcakes in the afternoon, alongside the string quartet’s entertainment. Angie Doll, Passenger Services Director for Southern and Gatwick Express, will also be cutting a special Gatwick Express train cake for staff to mark the birthday.

Stephen MacCallaugh, Head of Gatwick Express, took on the role in February 2017 after working as a Local Development Manager and Project Manager for Govia Thameslink Railway, and before this served as a Station Manager and Train Presentation Manager at various locations under First Capital Connect.

He said:

“The 35-year anniversary of operations is such an exciting occasion to be part of. It makes it even more special to be celebrating this event with the team.

“The Gatwick Express family make this a wonderful place to work; we’re looking forward to getting involved in the birthday activities with passengers at Victoria and Gatwick to celebrate,” he added.

Members of staff are marking the birthday by sharing some of their favourite memories of the Gatwick Express, including a number of celebrity spots.

Simone Forzani, Customer Service Host, said:

“So many famous people have passed through our gates: Richard Branson’s been here and I’ve seen David Cameron twice. But the one who made me swoon was Damian Lewis. He was carrying loads of bags and was struggling to get through the gateline. I offered to help but he couldn’t speak because he had his ticket in his mouth, poor man. So I took it from him, popped it through the gate and let him through. Everyone was staring at us. He was so grateful for my help and then Damian Lewis turned around and smiled – at me!“

Michael Green, On Board Supervisor, said:

“It’s the magic touches we give to our customers that set us apart. Gatwick Express has allowed me to be who I am. I often make tongue-in-cheek announcements to put a smile on the faces of my customers; most of them know me and I tailor my announcements for them.

“We want them to have the ultimate experience. We’re very family-orientated, very friendly and we always put the customer at the heart of what we do,” added Michael.

Basra Begum, Sales Clerk, said:

“I remember when I started we had training for two weeks. I learned how to do platforms, then ticket office, then I worked on the information desk. It was much more about multi-skilling in the early days. There were no computers: we all had manuals to check fares! I still enjoy working for Gatwick Express, that’s why I’ve stayed here so long.”

Nigel Geary-Andrews, On Board Supervisor, said:

“I remember one day Chris Eubank the boxer turned up at Victoria station. He asked me where the first-class compartment of the train was. He could see I recognised him, so he told me to come and find him later. I did go to see him and he insisted I have a photograph taken with him! He was a lovely man and although he’s no longer a boxer, he still looks like someone you’d wouldn’t want to have a fight with!”

As part of the celebrations, the Gatwick Express team invited prolific transport journalist and YouTuber, Geoff Marshall, to meet some of the staff that keep the 27 Gatwick Express trains running every day.  Watch the video here: http://bit.ly/2vSbhc5.

Looking ahead, a major station remodelling project will see further improvements for Gatwick Express passengers; in 2018 Network Rail submitted an application for a major transformation to reduce congestion and improve passenger experience.

Gatwick

Gatwick Airport Station could double in size as £150m upgrade announced

Tens of millions of rail passengers travelling to and from Gatwick Airport will benefit from improved accessibility and swifter journeys, after the Department for Transport (DfT) announced a £150 million scheme to upgrade the station.

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The renovation will reduce train delays caused by platform overcrowding and congestion, while also improving passenger experience by providing easier connections to other destinations.

Planned upgrades will include doubling the size of the station concourse, adding five new lifts and eight escalators to improve passenger flow, and widening two platforms to reduce overcrowding.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:

“With 46m people now using Gatwick Airport every year and 20m coming by train, it is vital that we make the station more accessible and customer friendly for those travelling through it. The UK’s second largest airport has direct rail links to more than 120 destinations and is an important public transport hub.

“We want to see Gatwick Airport’s success continue to flourish and ensure that it is ready for even more passengers in the future. Through this £150 million investment, we will deliver vital upgrades to boost the station’s capacity and provide better, seamless journeys for all.”

Stewart Wingate, Chief Executive Officer, Gatwick Airport said:

“Gatwick has been transformed in recent years and the redesigned train station will take the airport’s redevelopment to the next level by providing a seamless transition between the airport and the station, more lifts, escalators and a doubling in the size of the concourse.

“The new station will complement the huge improvements to rail services at the airport, which include new fleets of Gatwick Express and Thameslink trains and services that now leave the airport for London every three minutes – as frequently as services on the tube.

“The project is a fantastic example of the public and private sector working together to deliver a world-class transport hub that will comfortably manage the expected growth in air passengers and also encourage people to switch to rail as part of our push to get more people to travel to the airport by public transport.” 

The number of people using Gatwick Airport station each year has grown by six million since 2010. Currently the station is not designed for the high volume of daily passengers, often carrying bulky luggage.

The renovation will be managed by Network Rail, in partnership with DfT. Gatwick Airport Ltd and Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership are co-funding the project with £37m and £10m respectively.

Paul Harwood, Director of Investment for Network Rail, said:

“The transformational enhancement to Gatwick Airport station will provide passengers with a much smoother and more pleasant experience and also reduce train delays.

“Along with the recent improvements on the Brighton Main Line and our record £4.3 billion funding settlement for maintaining, operating and renewing the railway over the next five years, this investment is excellent news for passengers, businesses and the economy.”

Patrick Verwer, Chief Executive Officer of Govia Thameslink Railway, said:

“This much-needed scheme will deliver real benefits for passengers thanks to enhanced platforms, new lifts and a larger concourse. At such a busy station these upgraded facilities will significantly contribute to the smooth running of our services for travellers getting to and from the airport.”

Jonathan Sharrock, Chief Executive at Coast to Capital said:  

“If our economy is to grow, we need a transport network that supports faster, more reliable, and less polluting journeys for business, leisure and freight travel. Gatwick airport is an international destination and its station is a gateway to London and the wider Coast to Capital area.

“This plan will greatly improve the interchange for commuters, visitors and business which will support the sustainable growth of the area with Gatwick airport at its heart.

“We are delighted to have contributed £10 million and look forward to working with partners to deliver a better experience for passengers.”

The improvement works will start in Spring 2020 and will take around two years to complete. The works will be sequenced to ensure minimum disruption.

The government is investing a record £48bn to modernise the country’s rail network and deliver significant improvements in performance, punctuality and capacity.

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