Rail passenger satisfaction varies as value for money stays low

28 January 2020

Not even a north/south divide today as the latest Transport Focus National Rail Passenger Survey is published. Passengers around the country are having very different experiences, for very different reasons.

Northern and TransPennine’s timetable, industrial relations, late new trains and track improvements are well documented – Government action is expected soon on Northern. However, all the same problems will be there the day after so passengers should not expect rapid change. The welcome announcement by TransPennine about the earlier introduction of Delay Repay 15 compensation will help draw some of the sting, but passengers just want to be able to rely on the timetable.

South Western Railway (SWR) passengers have been battered by a bitter industrial dispute and on-going reliability issues. Those passengers have marked SWR down. West Midlands Trains passengers have had a mainly self-inflicted timetable crisis – with echoes of the May 2018 crisis – dumped on them. Again, a welcome announcement on extra compensation will help.

However, better news for Great Northern, ScotRail, Great Western Railway, Southern, Greater Anglia and Thameslink passengers. A combination of more stable performance and investment in new trains has seen, in some places, satisfaction on the up. Others have maintained OK performance.

Value for money remains a sticking point. Even where satisfaction has risen value for money remains low. Commuter angst? Yes, but also maybe an indication we have reached peak prices and the continual creep upwards of fares is really hitting some people – don’t forget regulated fare rises are calculated using the outmoded Retail Price Index measure. So, every year the fare rises are really outstripping wage inflation.

Transport Focus will now use these results to drive more change, more improvement and more focus on passenger needs. The value of this independent, representative, large scale and official set of statistics will only grow as the rail reform process looms. One way to easily increase their reach even further would be to make the survey continuous. We are talking to the Department for Transport about how this could happen.

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