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Ferry coming into Cowes

Red Funnel Customer Forum

Session Summary: 23 May 2023

On Tuesday 23 May 2023, we were delighted to host nine Island-resident customers at our second Customer Forum of the year, where we provided updates on the themes from the Forum held in February, and discussed new topics raised by the group.

The Customer Forum gives customers the opportunity to raise questions, offer suggestions and discuss their concerns with members of our Senior Leadership Team. The May Customer Forum was attended by Fran Collins, Chief Executive Officer, Leanna Lakes, Operations Director, Graham Barnetson, Chief Financial Officer, Donna Gudowski, Head of Customer Services & Communications, Kay Andrews, Head of Passenger Operations, and Sandra Whatley, Customer Services Manager.

Topics are set by our customers and the sessions provide an opportunity for us to take on questions and share feedback across our business. Collectively, this helps us to continue to improve our lifeline service for Island residents.

We would like to thank all attendees for their valuable contributions.

If you are interested in attending a future Customer Forum, please contact [email protected]  

Following each Customer Forum, we publish a summary of the meeting and the discussions and outcomes.

An introduction from Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel

Welcome to everyone who has joined us this evening and thank you for taking the time to attend. We really do appreciate your support and input to our Customer Forums, and welcome your feedback.

In our October and February Customer Forums, the topic of our proposed upgrades to our port at East Cowes was raised so I wanted to update you on progress. I am delighted to share that we have now moved to the consultation phase of this project and we are looking forward to hearing your feedback on the design. We are working with the Council and other local stakeholders to make sure that these plans are aligned with the Island’s needs, and that they support the community. We’re proud to be good neighbours and good residents and we’re committed to continuous improvement.

I am also very pleased to share with you that, in April, we launched our renewed Environmental, Social and Governance strategy, ‘Changing Tides’. This underpins all of our normal policies and procedures, defining how we operate, behave, and report on our performance and demonstrates our accountability for ‘doing the right thing’. Our new strategy focuses on five key areas: People, Communities, Customers, Environment, and Future, and ensures that we will minimise our impact on the environment, maximise the support given to the Island community, and operate responsibly.

Within this, we have launched our Island Ambassador programme, which is a travel sponsorship programme to champion and support talent from the Island.

We have also been working with Planet Aware, supporting beach cleans and beach surveys around the Island, in which a number of our team have already taken part with plans for more events to come. We’ll keep you updated on the progress of our plans, and we look forward to hearing from you.

For more information on our East Cowes port proposals and to provide feedback, you can visit our dedicated website at:

The following topics were raised by the customers attending the Customer Forum and were discussed by the group:

  • Reliability
  • Accessibility
  • Pricing
  • Onboard facilities
  • Customer Service

We were pleased to share that our reliability is currently running at 97%, with a small percentage down to weather issues which are out of our control!

We briefly discussed the refit issues that we experienced earlier in the year as this was raised as an issue at our February Customer Forum. Unfortunately, the refit timings also caused a slight delay to the start of our summer timetable.

As prudent operators and within best practice, we noted that we only use approved manufacturers and equipment for our refit repairs. Notwithstanding our best planning, this does occasionally lead to delays at refit season. Whilst our annual refits are a requirement, we try to minimise the time out of service for each ship by carrying out some maintenance work while the vessels are in service and overnight.

Due to the above-mentioned delays in refit, Red Falcon only had a short compliance dry dock this spring so she will be first into refit in November this year, when our winter maintenance programme begins.

We acknowledged that our older vessels need to be replaced and that this is something that we are actively planning for.  We’re making sure that we understand what our customers need, both now and in the future, and will design new vessels to include these specifications wherever possible.

One of our customers raised a concern that the 4.30am Sunday crossing had been removed from our timetable and wasn’t communicated properly. We explained that, sadly, there was virtually no demand for this crossing and that it’s important we take a balanced view on the crossing times we offer.

We apologised for the issues that this has caused and acknowledged that this change could have been better communicated.  We will take this on board for the future.

We discussed that some of the toilets on the Red Jets have been experiencing problems so haven’t always been available on crossings recently. The problems here relate to issues we’ve had with external suppliers we rely on to help us solve the problems. We’ve been let down with support and apologise that this ultimately affected our customers. We know that this isn’t good enough and we are doing our best to resolve this as soon as possible.

Since February, we have working hard to improve accessibility and expand the good work that has already taken place this year, such as offering more accessible seating and wheelchair accessible tables, lift upgrades to maintain reliability, subtitles on all onboard videos, and training our colleagues on the Sunflowers Hidden Disabilities scheme as well as with the National Autistic Society.

We were also pleased to share that we have reupholstered the seats in red and dark grey to improve contrast to the flooring to improve visual accessibility following a request from the Southampton Society for the Blind.

We have introduced sensory first aid kits and videos to help passengers with autism and neurodiversity needs, and we have made sure that our emergency information is available in braille.

We also informed the Forum that if people advise us in advance that they have special requirements for travel we can often help to accommodate them. Our new website, which is due to launch before the end of this year, will also allow passengers to provide feedback and advance notice for any special requirements.

The reduced size of the West Cowes waiting area was raised as a discussion point as this can cause crowding and congestion with limited room to sit down. We were pleased to update that this is currently being reviewed and we will be refurbishing this space later this year. This will include more space for seating.

We shared that we are currently working towards the Department of Transport’s Inclusive Transport Leaders Scheme, which provides a framework for companies to make their transport services more accessible to disabled people. This is part of our overall activity to improve accessibility for all of our passengers.

The next Big Book of Savings will be available at the beginning of July with exclusive offers for Islanders. We will be sharing this with customers as soon as it is available.

Onboard facilities
We talked about the unreliability of the Wi-Fi onboard and that it can drop off in the Solent. We have fitted Starlink units which have helped connectivity onboard but acknowledged that this can still be unreliable and may affect purchasing and card machines onboard. We’re still working on the solution and we thank everyone for their patience on this issue – we know how frustrating it is.

We talked about the Signature Lounge and explained that this service continues to increase in popularity. We are currently looking at extending the hours of the Signature Lounge so that this is available for commuters. We also confirmed that passengers can use their loyalty points to book a place in the Signature Lounge.

From feedback from the February Customer Forum, we heard that passengers would like to keep the Signature Lounge as a quiet space, so we asked our staff to consistently and politely remind customers to keep mobile phone conversations to a minimum / lower volume. We hope that people have noticed an improvement.

Since the last Customer Forum we have refurbished two of our vessels and have moved the coffee and drinks machines to reduce queue times and provide a better customer experience. We are in the process of updating all vending machines and have newly fitted tray racks for improved cleanliness.

We are continuing to introduce new partnerships with suppliers and have launched our summer-time menu and will shortly be rolling out premium breakfasts all week. We also have a new partnership with Phatt’s Pasty in our terminal buildings.

Customer Service
We were asked for an update on our new website and shared that this will be launching before the end of the year. Our new website will help to better communicate any delays or updates to punctuality, and customers will be able to make amends and cancellations to their bookings as we know this has been a continued source of frustration.

We will review and ensure that the current website has up to date information on it as some customers raised that there is sometimes out of date information.

Our customer service was rated highly by the attendees of the Customer Forum who highlighted the helpfulness and friendliness of our colleagues.

We will shortly be introducing name badges so that passengers can clearly see who they are being served by and so they can thank them. We mentioned our First Class Service awards scheme, which recognises colleagues who really demonstrate First Class Service and that feedback from our customers plays an important part in this.

Thank you

We would like to thank everyone who attended the Customer Forum and as always, we are extremely grateful for your involvement and feedback. We are committed to continuing to share views and opinions so that we can improve on our services and do the best we can for our customers and the Island community. We want to be your first choice of ferry when you travel to and from the Island and will continue to do all we can to support your travel needs.

Next Customer Forum – October, 2023
Our next Customer Forum will be held in October. We will send out details ahead of this to invite customers to attend. Up to 50% of places will be reserved for customers who attended the 23 May session, with the rest to be filled with new voices.

On Thursday 9 February 2023, we hosted 15 customers, all Island residents, at our first Customer Forum of the year. This followed on from our last Customer Forum in October 2022, which was reinstated following the pandemic.

The Customer Forum gives customers the opportunity to meet with members of our Senior Leadership Team, including our CEO, Fran Collins. Topics are set by our customers and the sessions provide an opportunity for us to take on questions and share feedback from across our business. Collectively, this assists us in continuing to improve our lifeline service for Island residents.

We would like to thank all attendees for their valuable contributions.
If you are interested in attending a future Customer Forum, please contact [email protected]  

An introduction from Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel

Since our last Customer Forum in October 2022, we have continued to progress a number of positive developments across the business. But, disappointingly, we have also faced some challenges which we know have affected our customers.

We were unable to offer a three-boat service over the Christmas period due to unforeseen and essential changes to our refit schedule, where vessels undergo essential maintenance to ensure that they are able and compliant for service. We know that some vessels in our fleet need replacing and that our shoreside infrastructure needs to be upgraded, and 2023 will see us share updates on the plans with the Island community.

The topic of East Cowes redevelopment came up in the last Forum and was again a topic at this session.  I am pleased to share we will be starting consultation this year for this project. We have been busy working on this in the background over the past few months. East Cowes marks the start of an exciting journey for us in upgrading our shoreside infrastructure. But, before any decisions are made, we will be engaging with customers, our people, residents and local stakeholders to ensure the community is informed and aligned with us on this exciting journey. We will be sharing more information on this very soon.

The following topics were raised in the Customer Forum (by customers) and discussed by the group:

  • Pricing
  • Disabled Access
  • App/technology
  • Retail and Food & Beverage overview
  • Reliability and timetables
  • Customer Service
  • Shoreside facilities
  • Staffing
  • Sustainability

We know that customers are facing inflationary price rises in all aspects of their lives, including the cost of travel. As such we have sought to manage Red Funnel’s costs in order to minimise the need to raise prices and be able to maintain our lifeline service timetable. This includes continuing to offer our early and late Red Jet crossings, as well as our overnight vehicle ferry service.

Unfortunately, with major increases to the cost of fuel and most other aspects of our supply chain service, we too must consider the exceptional economic climate in setting our 2023 ticket pricing, in order to maintain our business resilience and protect our lifeline commitments. We announced this last year and will continue to be transparent with customers around pricing.

We continue to offer reduced rates for Islanders attending mainland NHS appointments, IOW job seekers, and Blue Light cardholders, as well as those currently claiming Universal Credit.  Blue Badge and Disabled Persons Railcard holders will also see their discount rise to 25% for travel originating off the Island.

We discussed the future of St Mary’s Hospital and Portsmouth Hospital, and this will be raised in future transport meetings.

We were pleased to update that following feedback from the last Customer Forum, we have made several key improvements for customers, including more accessible seating and wheelchair accessible tables. We have also upgraded our lifts which will improve reliability.

We are aware that the steep steps on our vehicle ferries may cause problems for some customers and confirmed that accessibility will be a high priority in planning future infrastructure, both shoreside and on board.

We now include subtitles on all onboard videos and have provided training for our colleagues on the Sunflowers Hidden Disabilities scheme. We are also working with the National Autistic Society, which will supply our colleagues with further training and help us assess opportunities to improve our service. We believe that autism-friendly considerations and adaptations to our service will be appreciated by customers and we are progressing this work.

Automatic doors from A deck to outside space were completed in June 2022 and we worked with the Blind Society to introduce high contrast floor markings and signage in our terminals.
Our new website, due to launch in the spring, will be fully accessible, and later in the year, will include video tours of our facilities.

A few further points for us to review were raised during this discussion which included some difficulties with wheelchair manoeuvring, particularly as toilet doors open outwards, as well as considering the use of low-tack, removable window labels for passengers in vehicles to help communicate accessibility needs. This could enable our loading teams to park such vehicles near the passenger accommodation doorways and lifts, and allow more space for entry and exit from vehicles. These are points we are taking on board to look at where we can make additional improvements.

We were asked about using the app to order food and drinks. This is something that will follow the completion of work we are currently doing to upgrade our WIFI connection across the entire duration of passage.

We will be launching our new website in the spring which will enable customers to maximise the use and management of their Red Funnel Rewards. The new website will also make our current booking process more efficient, including the ability to amend bookings online.

We discussed the Red Funnel Rewards programme. For more information on this visit We will increase training with onboard staff to ensure passengers are reminded to present their loyalty cards (if they have one) when purchasing goods onboard.

Retail and Food and Beverage overview
In the last Customer Forum, the topic of retail, food and beverage was raised, and some good points were made. We were pleased to share some of the exciting changes that we have been making across the business.

All of our self-serve coffee stations have been updated with brand new machines, which have greater reliability and access. However, we’d like to reassure you that these machines are not intended to replace our customer service and our staff will still be on hand to help customers with orders.

We are working with numerous Island suppliers including The Island Tea & Coffee Co, Briddlesford Farm, Isle of Wight Ice Cream Company, and The Isle of Wight Distillery.

We have reviewed our stock lines and following your feedback, are offering more plant and meat-free options, in turn lowering our carbon position and offering healthy alternatives.

We aim to offer as many choices as possible to meet all customer preferences, and to cater for seasonal demands.

Our food and beverage team is pleased to announce enhancements to our Signature Lounge menu, which will now feature seasonal fruit, alongside savoury treats including olives, cheese, and biscuits.

Our Signature Lounge will also be trialling the availability of plain scones alongside the current offering of fruit scones, following feedback received from the Customer Forum sessions.

Reliability and timetables
Since the last Customer Forum, we have experienced a number of challenges that we wanted to openly share and discuss at this event. These issues include mechanical challenges with vessels, weather-related disruption, and staff sickness.

Despite strong performance in January, at the time of the Customer Forum session, we were experiencing significant disruption to our Hi-Speed service.

  • On 2 February: Red Jet 6 entered refit, with Red Jet 4 and Red Jet 7 maintaining our scheduled, regular timetable.
  • On 7 February: Following a routine safety inspection, it was necessary to carry out a repair to Red Jet 4’s port jet unit and temporarily take her out of service. Unfortunately, this took longer than expected which meant we had to run a revised Red Jet timetable during the repair period.

The combined effect of the above issues was that at the time of the Customer Forum session, we were operating on a reduced, 1-boat timetable.

It was raised as a concern that there was not enough notice on cancellations of ferries. Our focus is, of course, on improving our punctuality and reliability but we are also working on improvements to our communication systems to ensure customers have access to the latest information. Unfortunately, due to the nature of some cancellations, such as sudden mechanical failures, we are often limited in the amount of notice we can provide.

Our new website will further improve our ability to communicate delays and cancellations.
Customers can also claim back on our website if they experience delays or cancellations in some circumstances. For more information about this, see here
We were asked how we accommodate football supporters when there are evening matches, and we shared that where possible, sailings are frequently amended to allow football fans to travel in line with match times.

We discussed using on board LED screens to notify passengers on the Floating Bridge service status. This is something we are investigating.

Customer Service
We were delighted to hear that the Signature Lounge is given very favourable feedback by passengers who appreciate its excellent customer service and comfort. This is a valuable benefit to passengers who enjoy a quiet space to travel.

We were asked to see if we can more consistently maintain the Signature Lounge as a quiet zone, restricting the use of mobile phones.

We will also improve communication of the age restriction for the Signature Lounge (12+).

Some customers mentioned issues with the costs of the signature lounge appearing as more expensive than it should be when booking online. If customers experience this in the future, we encourage the reporting of any technical issues to our Customer Services team ([email protected])

It was requested that colleagues make sure that their name badges or lanyards are clearly visible to make it easier for passengers to thank team members.

In addition to this, we are delighted to share that as part of our First-Class Service programme, we will have the option for customers to nominate staff for first class service using our website, which will be launched in March.

Customers at the forum encouraged us to increase communications around the work we are doing in the community and the support we provide to island initiatives.

We currently offer a range of discounts and offers, including the Big Book of Savings, with shareable discount codes for Island residents, and package booking deals. We also emphasised that the offers can be shared with friends and family.

We discussed ideas for new offers for Island residents, including enhanced offers for family and friends.

We discussed that it is all about striking a balance when we create offers, as we aim to safeguard Islanders’s travel, while still making sure that prices are fair for all customers.

The Customer Forum attendees passed on their thanks to our Red Funnel colleagues, echoing feedback that they are friendly and helpful. We are actively working on our First-Class Service training and shared some insight into our customer service ethos and standards.

We continue to face challenges around staffing post Covid and Brexit. While we are still contending with some gaps we are continuing to recruit and have started seasonal recruitment early in the year to ensure we are well staffed in time for the busy summer season.

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who attended the Customer Forum and as always, we are extremely grateful for your involvement and feedback. We want to make sure that we continue to share views and opinions so that we can improve on our services and do the best we can for our customers and the Island community. We want to be your first choice of ferry when you travel to and from the Island and will continue to do everything we can to provide for your travel needs.

Next Customer Forum – 11 May, 2023

Our next Customer Forum will be held on 11 May. We will send out details ahead of this to invite customers to attend. Up to 50% of places will be reserved for customers who attended the 9 February session, with the rest to be filled with new voices.

On Tuesday 11th October 2022, we hosted 13 customers, all Island residents, at the Red Funnel Customer Forum. This was the first Customer Forum since 2019.

An introduction from Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel

Since the last Customer Forum pre-COVID, we have experienced our fair share of challenges; a challenging labour market, pandemic recovery, changes in commuter travel habits, rising fuel and supply chain costs and technical challenges.

Despite these challenges, we have been working hard to build a sustainable business and we’re now looking forward to the future, creating a thriving business for another 160 years.

Promoting the Isle of Wight is an important part of this future, and we must encourage tourism to protect the Island. We are working closer than ever with local Island businesses, promoting them and the Isle of Wight to wider audiences. Our annual Red Funnel Isle of Wight Awards will be back again this year, celebrating the best of the Island.

We have invested in our vessels and infrastructure, including refits for our Red Jets and shore infrastructure and we now have a new lift maintenance company to minimise lift outages. We have also invested heavily in building up critical spare parts to ensure we have the necessary parts to complete repairs when outages happen, which has reduced delays or cancellations caused by mechanical issues.

Behind the scenes, we have also launched our First-Class Service programme which sees us train and recognise our teams, improving customer service throughout our business.

The following topics were raised in the Forum by customers, and discussed:

  • Red Jet services
  • Customer service
  • Signature Lounge
  • Food and drink
  • Pricing and discounts
  • Accessibility
  • Strategy and development
  • Electric cars
  • Service status
  • Terminal traffic

Red Jet services
There has been a decline in demand for the high-speed Red Jet service by approximately 30% compared to 2019 pre-pandemic levels, with less commuter travel and more people working from home post-pandemic.  High sickness rates and recruitment challenges resulted in service disruptions, and this issue has largely been resolved by closing the vacancy and training gaps and improved rates of staff sickness.

The Red Jets were prone to a higher rate of technical malfunction due to being idle or less frequently used during the pandemic and in the months thereafter.

Our timetables reflect the reality of the demand we have for our services and our commitment to running a lifeline service. Despite a 30% reduction in demand for the Red Jets, the service has only been reduced by 19% but we now provide a wider window of service on the Red Jet than before COVID. Many sailings, particularly early morning and late evening are loss-making, but are still operated to maintain essential connectivity. Pricing of the Red Jet is reflective of this, balancing peak times with the quieter sailings.

Customer service
It was wonderful to hear praise from attendees for the quality of customer service provided by our teams. As part of our First-Class Service initiative, colleagues are able to nominate one another for a First-Class Service Award. We will shortly enable our customers to more easily recognise and nominate staff for these awards too.

We are continuing to expand First-Class Service development, including listening to and incorporating feedback from customers into training modules, ensuring we provide a consistent approach to customer service, and celebrating our teams’ individual personalities. We are also reviewing the availability of management in the Contact Centre to support with complaint escalations, which was a point raised at the forum.

A customer mentioned he felt that at times our staff members were not fully aware of how our Travel Card discounts work, so we’ll ensure we refresh training for those relevant colleagues.

The levels of staffing in our terminals during quiet periods was raised. Creating a welcoming space, even during quieter times, is something we are looking to address.

We learnt that customers enjoy hearing about points of interest during their journeys, and we are exploring how we can build this in to our approach to First-Class Service.

We will also continue to connect with transport partners on the Island to explore if we can improve onward travel time for customers using public transport on bot the Island and the mainland.

Signature Lounge
For customers who choose to use our Signature Lounge, we have taken on feedback to explore reward schemes and asked our hospitality team to review the variety of food and drink choices.

Food and drink
We know many customers look forward to enjoying a hot meal on board, particularly those who have been travelling long distances. Due to the popularity of our food and drink offer on board, we are aware of the need to address seating areas for those wishing to enjoy a meal or snack. This is something we have listened to and will be actioning as we look to upgrade our vessels. We will be trialling some of the ideas from customers to help ensure everyone has access to a seat to enjoy a meal and we heard some great ideas we can implement immediately including improved signage and announcements, and other ideas we will be exploring as part of our longer-term plans, such as the use of technology to improve customer experience. We also noted feedback from solo travellers with dogs, who want more access to hot food and drinks and will consider this in our future plans.

In the short term, we have immediate plans to improve the flow of queuing for passengers in Refuel, relocating our coffee machines to allow for better access. We will be reconfiguring this space as our vessels go in for their annual refit over the winter months.

We have also taken on board feedback around our menu options and always look to ensure we provide maximum choice.

Pricing and discounts
We continue to work to ensure our pricing is fair and competitive. We discussed that booking travel in advance is always more cost-effective, as is being flexible with your travel date and considering off-peak dates – especially Tues to Thurs.

We currently offer a range of discounts and offers, including the Big Book of Savings, with shareable discount codes for Island residents, and package booking deals. We will also be putting a greater focus on how we can work with third parties to pass on additional discounts (e.g. theatre, restaurant, accommodation, attractions)

As a lifeline service, we understand the importance of supporting customers to reach essential medical appointments. Red Funnel’s healthcare travel scheme offers passengers discounted rates for those travelling to NHS medical appointments in Southampton or the Isle of Wight. This includes passenger and vehicle ferry travel. More information on this scheme can be found here. We’re going to do more to promote these support schemes to ensure all those that can benefit from them know that they can do so.

Ensuring we provide a fully accessible service is essential, and the Customer Forum allowed for a positive discussion around how we can look to improve accessibility for our customers. We will be looking into points around disabled parking, on board facilities – including lifts and toilets - and engaging with the disabled community to ensure we continue to improve accessibility for all.

We also appreciate the requirement for additional seating during busy periods. As we plan for the future, we will be taking this into account.

Strategy and development
Red Funnel is owned by three pension infrastructure / investment funds, which represent a range of former workers. These pension funds have not taken any dividends since 2017 but have proactively ensured that the Red Funnel can continue to provide lifeline services with support throughout Covid. As we look towards the future of the business, we will continue to update on our strategy and future, and our plans to ensure the future success of Red Funnel. As with every business, we must strike a balance between reliability, cost and sustainability.

The pandemic meant we had to pause some of our development plans, including in East Cowes. We are engaging with our colleagues, customers and residents to discuss plans for the East Cowes terminal redevelopment and are looking forward to this exciting new opportunity as both a means to improve the quality and efficiently of our service, but also to better serve the Island community.

Future planning is also underway. We need to upgrade our current fleet and shoreside infrastructure, and the Customer Forum was an opportunity to share some early thoughts on potential options for the future of our fleet, including the various considerations on the table - from electric, to hybrid, to new fuels. We will keep our customers informed as planning progresses for this exciting project.

Electric cars
Building a sustainable future for Red Funnel is critical as part of our long-term plans. We are engaged with electric car charging specialists to install charging points across our business, both on the Island and in Southampton and will be able to share more details very soon.

Service status
Ensuring customers have access to the latest service status information is essential. Our live service status is available here and on the Red Funnel app. We are working on improving how we use technology to communicate with customers, including the services available via our app. Errors in the app relating to Signature Lounge bookings were raised during the Customer Forum have already been resolved.

Terminal traffic
Traffic management is high on our agenda, both in Southampton and East Cowes. Legally, we are unable to marshal on the road, but we work closely with both Southampton City Council and East Cowes Town Council to share information and make improvements. In Southampton, we have improved traffic flow, working with the Council on a traffic light management scheme, and we will be taking these learnings on as we look forward to the development of the East Cowes terminal.

Thank You to Session 1 Attendees!

We truly enjoyed spending time with everyone in attendance and we’re so grateful for all the excellent feedback and insights, which we have shared with management from all relevant departments. We are deeply committed to serving our customers and our Island community and to the pursuit of continuous improvement, and we are looking forward to the next session.

Next Customer Forum – Feb 2023  

Our next Customer Forum session will be held in February 2023. We will put a call out for closer to the time once the date is set. Up to 50% of seats will be reserved for customers who attended the 11 October session, with the balance to be filled by new faces.