Where? Inside the industry - or outside?
“Both. When you actually have a conversation about it, you encourage a discussion that’s incredibly positive. When you’re remote from people and engaging only on social media, that makes it much more difficult to have a real conversation.
“I don’t want to imply everything is perfect - because it isn’t. There will always be some people who are very, very frustrated with the service they get which they don’t recognise in the BROR context. To them, it looks like we are celebrating success when their service isn’t as we’d like it to be. What we want to do is use that to prompt a conversation with them about how we’re trying to improve things, rather than coming across as being in denial of those problems.”
How has it gone down with the owning groups? RAIL has been urging a campaign even bigger than this for years, but there was solid opposition either on financial grounds or in terms of ‘what’s in it for me?’ There was a lot of silo thinking. What changed?
“There was an effort over quite some time to make the case for BROR - that we should be much more proactive… that we should communicate successes. What changed was a growing realisation of the importance about focusing on the longer term and across the whole of the industry, rather than just at company level. I don’t think there was any one particular event that caused that.”
Was it just a case of the industry - and ATOC/RDG - maturing?
“I think there’s some of that,” he says thoughtfully. “Over the last year in particular there’s been a step change - a big change in the way the membership and stakeholders think.”
A major shift in their attitude?
“Yes - across the membership they’re much more open to challenging themselves and using this organisation to find out how things could be different in customer experience, ticketing and so on. The ability that this organisation now has to challenge its own members and help them to improve is much greater than it was.
Is that your influence?
“I’m not going to claim credit for all of that - the whole organisation has stepped up. The two names we had were hugely confusing, so moving from ATOC and RDG to a single organisation with one purpose - creating a better railway - is really important.
“We have also sorted out governance arrangements internally which were horribly confused and confusing - another massive step forward. We can now have better conversations about how we drive things, and BROR is an example of all of that. It’s the right thing to do because it’s going to help in the long term even if it’s not helping short term. I came here not to do it the way it was done before, but because members were asking for the organisation to be more challenging, to be more active about getting messages out there. So that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Will it carry on? Are members willing to go the distance and keep paying for the ongoing campaign which will be needed? That is a big commitment. Or will we look back on this as a flash in the pan?
“Absolutely yes!” says Plummer. “Members’ reaction has been positive. Everyone understands that BROR is not just a campaign saying how wonderful things are, its purpose is to proactively address some of the difficult issues that you have been advocating for a long time.
“We will debate openly about how we need to change things differently - because there are choices the nation needs to make about what it wants on the railway. We want to have that conversation, rather than just do it quietly behind the scenes - or not at all.
“We need to make those decisions and then quickly deliver whatever is decided. We will help challenge our own members and stakeholders alike, including Government, to help them deliver what the nation wants from its railway. RDG will highlight that these are important choices that can’t just be ignored.”
So what will we actually see? Are your members in it for the long haul? Will they continue funding BROR to the degree required to make it truly effective?
“You’ll see more in terms of ads, yes - in the spring - that’s already part of what’s currently committed. You’ll also see much more of us in terms of generally being proactive, setting out more clearly what rail modernisation actually means: Why is it so important for customers? Why does it help? Is it not good news for all of our workers? Why does it matter for taxpayers?
“I’ll certainly be making the case for BROR going forward, as I did this time, and looking to get that confirmation from members. You wouldn’t expect people to commit to multiple years at this stage - we need to keep ‘proving it’ - but I’m optimistic.”