Metronet - Case study: Improving ambience on the London Underground

Improving ambience on the London Underground

Client and initial situation

Metronet Rail (MRBCV) is responsible for a third of the London Underground network. The terms of the Private Public Partnership (PPP) contract provide strict requirements for MRBCV to ensure the quality of service, rewarding for improved performance but penalising for failure to deliver to stringent performance criteria. Performance is measured in availability, service points and ambience. VISION was initially asked to work with MRBCV to improve the ambience of the Central Line fleet and to bring a more customer-centric focus to the organisation. Ambience concerns the quality of the travelling environment and is a good indicator of the customer’s experience. London Underground Limited measures ambience through mystery shopping surveys. Years of chronic under-investment resulted in less than satisfied customers and poor performance under PPP criteria. The ambience was of particular concern to MRBCV because it was an area where their scores were in decline.

Client’s request and VISION’s approach to the challenge

MRBCV asked VISION to help them create an ambience improvement and roll it out on their Central Line fleet. The key project objectives were:

  • Achieve a target of 69.1 in the Mystery Shopping Survey within six months improving on the average score of 63 points.
  • Produce an annualised saving in ambience on the Central Line by moving from abatement to a reward situation.
  • Introduce a customer-centric style of management.

The VISION Consulting and MRBCV team successfully identified the experience that would delight the travelling public, and meet the regulator’s requirements, measured via the Mystery Shopping Survey. The team designed a network of commitments that would satisfy these customers. The concerns of the travelling public became the concern of each individual within the team, from management to cleaner contractors.

Building trust between the team at all levels was a vital key to the success of the project. The core cleaning process was carried out during the night. The consultants worked shoulder to shoulder with the operational staff in the depot and the contract cleaning teams overnight, building trust and confidence in the programme.

This team ethos was extended to the commercial deal that was struck. VISION promised to deliver results by sharing the risk and the reward of the project. This pricing agreement meant that both companies were equally committed to delivering a successful project ensuring mutual benefits.


  • Central Line Fleet achieved a score of 72.3 (Results for Q1, 2003-4) in the Mystery Shopping Survey, comfortably exceeding the target of 69.1.
  • The declining trend in ambience score was reversed. Instead of costing MRBCV money in terms of abatements, ambience for the first time was making a positive contribution to the bottom line.
  • Cleaning frequency increased from four trains to 18 trains per 24-hour period, allowing the entire fleet to be cleaned every six days.
  • Graffiti was eliminated from the entire fleet. 90% of all new graffiti was removed within 24 hours, and 100% within 48 hours.
  • The contract cleaner attrition rate fell dramatically, from 40% to less than 5%.

Client satisfaction

“VISION and MRBCV’s working partnership has created practical results. We have moved from a penalty to a reward situation with the regulator and we have a new commitment and confidence to deliver a quality service. The daily underground passenger has a service that is cleaner and more pleasant to use. That’s over three million more satisfied customers each day.”

Lloyd Rodgers, Director of Maintenance, MRBCV

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