A perfect storm on a sunny day

19 April 2013

I was at Gatwick Airport station last Sunday. A person under a train at South Croydon caused late-morning chaos. The good weather had brought people out and it was the last day of the Easter holidays, so there were lots of people with luggage returning home. Football fixtures brought more. All using public transport – great, until something goes wrong. Lots of improvement works no doubt added to the strain.

We know from our research that for those passengers that experience it, how rail disruptions are dealt with is the key driver of passenger dissatisfaction. Getting trains on time is the second biggest factor and also the key factor behind satisfaction. Dealing with it is not easy. A dynamic, fast-changing situation, lots of stressed passengers, out-of-date IT kit which does not help all mean staff have a lot to cope with. Knowing what has caused the delay helps.  What was really missing on the day was any kind of overview of the situation being broadcast. The indicator boards told you what was cancelled, not what was running. Staff seemed bemused. There was a very long period when no train appeared at all. If you are a regular user of that line you could work out it would only be a matter of time before  a London-bound train appeared, but a lot of folk were weekend travellers who needed help and there were very few staff around. While there have been improvements in the way disruption is handled, there is some way to go. We will keep monitoring those improvements and helping to spread good practice.

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