30 July strike update
Today’s strike by ASLEF members affected Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, London Overground, LNER, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains. This weekend sees the Commonwealth Games and the start of the new men’s football league season.
We continue to speak to passengers, and get out and about to monitor the situation on the ground. We have also asked some people who are making journeys anyway to ‘mystery shop’ their experience.
Today’s action had the potential to cause even more confusion as it did not affect all train operators and in fact some parts of the network were running as usual. However, while we saw the odd confused passenger, such as when we popped into Stafford station, on the whole things seemed to have been well communicated.
Overall we’ve seen a good staff presence at stations, which has been helpful to those who turned up unaware of the issues.
At Swansea one woman was trying to make her way to a surprise 80th birthday party in Birmingham. She said as she lives close by, she gets all her travel information from station posters; and there had been none at the particular entrance she uses. Staff helped her re-plan her route meaning she’d get to the party a bit later in the afternoon.
At Basingstoke there was no visible signage at all. It was better at Stafford, though some of it was on sliding doors which disappeared when they opened so not ideal placement!
We are also noticing more posters using QR codes to ensure that the information is the most current available. This is a good move, but must be backed up by regularly-refreshed signage for those who do not get their information in this way.
We are continuing to report specific issues to operators in the moment, and have been pleased to hear that things have been remedied. For example, where passengers search online for a service that is unavailable due to the strikes, the planner shows the next available which is the next day, but it isn’t obvious unless you check the date. This has now been highlighted.
Our spokespeople have been on BBC, Sky and GB News reminding people to check before they travel. We will publish a summary of our latest strike-day findings on our website in due course.
We spoke to a representative sample of more than 2000 people across Britain between 22 and 24 July, to find out how the strike on 27 July was affecting their travel plans.
Of those people that planned to travel by train on Wednesday 27 July:
- six in 10 (61 per cent) say they were aware of the planned strike action, with almost four in ten (39 per cent) unaware
- around two in three (69 per cent) say they won’t now be travelling because of the strike
- but almost one in three (31 per cent) say they still plan to travel by train, despite the strike.
Half of those people that planned to travel by train on Thursday 28 July were aware of the potential for services to be disrupted the day after the strike. And around half (53 per cent) said they would no longer travel on Thursday because of the potential disruption.
Of those people that had looked for information and were either still planning to travel by train or had changed their plans:
- around half (55 per cent) rated the information about the train services that will and will not be running as good and around one in four (23 per cent) said it was poor
- around half (47 per cent) rated the information on arrangements for changing your ticket, or obtaining a refund if you are no longer travelling, as good and one in four (25 per cent) as poor or very poor.
Updates from previous days
Wednesday 27 July
Train services are once again severely reduced today due to strike action by the RMT union.
This could prove tricky for people travelling to the France v Germany UEFA women’s semi final in Milton Keynes, or making their way to Birmingham ahead of the Commonwealth Games .
Transport Focus staff are out visiting stations to monitor the situation on the ground and reviewing the passenger information online. So far things have been fairly quiet, and we have seen some good examples of passenger information – but also some areas where there is room for improvement. Rochdale station, for instance, was completely closed with no explanation of why.
So far it looks like many passengers have heeded the message to not travel by train, and stayed at home or made alternative travel arrangements.
Over the weekend we asked people about the impact. Around two in three (69 per cent) said they won’t now be travelling because of the strike. Some reported being unable to get work or having to work from home.
One passenger said: “I will be forced to rent a car, which is super bad for the environment but the rail companies leave me with virtual no other choice!”. Another said: “With the local buses on strike, and no transport of our own, we’re now stranded in our village.”
Watch this space for more information on the situation on the ground. We’ll be visiting stations this afternoon, and making sure there is good information on the last trains available. Saturday we will also have further updates about from the strikes (only affecting certain train companies) that day.
Saturday 25 June
This is the first strike happening at a weekend, so there is more of an impact on leisure travel than commuters. We’ve been out observing the passenger experience at various stations.
Similarly to earlier in the week there weren’t huge numbers travelling. But again, we found some were unaware of the strike – or what it meant for their journey.
There were a handful of people traveling from Wishaw to Glasgow early on. While at East Dulwich platforms had been barriered off as it had no trains today.
Elsewhere colleagues have commented on there being plenty of staff around helping passengers. And also that train companies should rethink where best to put strike information at stations so it has maximum impact. Hopefully there won’t be more strikes of course!
We’ve also popped in, so far, at Denmark Hill, Herne Hill, Motherwell, Penrith, Southall, Stafford, Wigan (North Western and Wallgate).
On Monday we’ll be taking stock of what we’ve learned in this difficult week for Britain’s rail passengers.
Friday 24 June
Today there is no industrial action, but fewer trains are running than normal. We’re hearing anecdotally that it’s similar to Wednesday in terms of numbers of people travelling (but more than on strike days).
We’re also hearing that staff availability at stations has been good. At Eccles, our colleague had a good explanation of the late start from a member of staff there, though they couldn’t see much info on display until they got to the platform. Over at Manchester Victoria (image left, below) another colleague found only one small notice about the train strike, although there were posters on lampposts outside both Victoria and Piccadilly. She said it was a little quieter than usual, and she didn’t notice any passengers looking stressed. There were plenty of staff on hand in high-vis.
Similarly at Hale (image right, above) it was virtually empty with only two cars in the car park. Although the ticket machine had a warning sign, there wasn’t much other information. Our colleague saw some staff but said they didn’t seem to be offering help, even to two confused-looking passengers.
At an almost-empty Armathwaite services seemed to be running OK. And at Southall the info screens displayed a cancelled and a delayed service with no explanation or announcement as to why. Meanwhile at Manchester Piccadilly, the station felt busier with lots of holidaymakers and day trippers. Plenty of signs and staff were in evidence. A colleague at East Dulwich said the 7.38 London Bridge train that went through was full to standing room only.
As well as these station visits, we had people popping into Brighton, Cheadle Hulme, Clapham Junction and Crewe.
Transport Focus commissioned some people who were travelling anyway to ‘mystery shop’ their journey. Generally the feedback mirrored what we were hearing from our other work; things seemed to have gone ok, with mainly quiet trains and stations. Lack of announcements and posters/information at stations or on trains came up the most often. This evidence helps us add weight to our suggestions to industry around improving clarity and visibility of this information.
Some example journey reports are in the box above.
Tomorrow is another strike day with trains starting later than usual on Sunday as well. We’ll have people out and about, and will post an update here tomorrow. We’re also speaking to members of our panel, and running an omnibus survey, to find out how it went for those who travelled, and how it impacted those who didn’t. We will report back on this on Monday.
Thursday 23 June
This is the second day of strikes, the third of reduced services. We’ve been out to stations including Birmingham Snow Hill, Cannon Street, Fairfield, London Fenchurch Street, Shieldmuir, Southall, Stockport, Uddingston, Westbury and Wilmslow.
Overall it’s a similar picture to Tuesday with most people heeding the ‘do not travel’ guidance. Here’s the almost-empty train from Shieldmuir to Glasgow mid-morning today.
We’ve seen a good level of staff around in many places, to help and reassure those who have tried to travel. And, perhaps as a result of our feedback, we’re noticing more examples of prominent information at stations.
This was taken at Stockport this morning.
Yesterday we met two industry groups to discuss our suggestions for improvements to information and refund/compensation processes. The Customer Information Group is made up of heads of information across the industry, and the Redress & Support Group is the heads of customer relations.
We were pleased to see that National Rail Enquiries has heeded our advice and made it clearer that there are reduced timetables and a later start to service on days following strike action. Meanwhile South Western Railway will be putting a notice on ticket vending machines (TVMs) on future strike days.
On social media, the number of people talking about the strikes has dipped considerably. We found many tweets now are from people trying to get information.
Hi 16:15 train from Leeds to Reading Sat 25th has been cancelled by LNER & not showing on your website, but still shows under my bookings and I’m unable to apply refund on site (needed urgently to fund petrol for daughters uni open day!). Tckt collect ref: BW72HLJT
— Stu (@stupotwotnot) June 23, 2022
@SouthernRailUK when are you going to update your website with train times for Saturday? It’s 3 days away, so it would be nice to see what limited service you’re running so I can plan my journey home.
— Mark Harris (@arsenal_mjh) June 22, 2022
Our Transport User Panel members have been sharing their feedback from journeys made on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Things went fairly well for some:
- “I caught a train at 1546hrs, it was very lightly loaded.” (Tuesday)
- “Left late morning and returned earlier than normal to avoid early cut off of services. Trains weren’t very busy as nearly everyone that could worked from home.” (Tuesday)
- “I travelled at earliest poss 9.30 and was pleasantly surprised at its arrival on time and ease of journey. I had to travel in order to help someone with a homeless problem.” (Wednesday)
- “Slightly better today as the 0906 was running but that still meant being an hour later to work than normal (as again I usually get the 0806). Again work was understanding. Train home at the usual time was available. Train in the morning was busier than yesterday and 2-car but not overcrowded by any stretch.” (Wednesday)
But others report late cancellations or information issues. And some still hadn’t appreciated the reduced/late starting services:
- “Looked to get 09.27 to Wigan. Train showed on National rail planner and Trainline. Train cancelled. Had to travel by bus 4 hours.” (Tuesday)
- “I had a dental appointment on Tuesday. When the possible strikes were announced I changed it to midday on Wednesday. I discovered on Wednesday morning that there would be no trains until 1.30.” (Wednesday)
- “The journey so far is fine, however the LNER train should be going all the way to Inverness (it’s the 1200, the only direct LNER to Inverness) but it’s terminating at Edinburgh today and there’s no replacement bus to continue the journey so I’ve had to pay extra for a bus.” (Wednesday)
We also had some mystery shoppers reporting back on journeys made this week. We will be following up issues raised with the relevant operators, and will publish the reviews soon.
Wednesday 22 June
No strike today, but not quite ‘back to normal’. Yesterday was the first strike day but, as the industry warned, there is still not a full service running. Busy in places because of the late start to the service, but generally still quiet.
Our colleagues were out again, checking on information and staffing levels. Today we’ve been to stations including Bolton, Bramhall, Bredbury, Brighton, Chapel en le Frith, Clapham Junction, Disley, Fleet, Penrith, Peterborough, Stafford, Swansea, Westbury and Woodley.
We’ve highlighted some stations where information could be better or more visible, and fed that back to operators and Network Rail.
Following the website checks we did at the start of the week, we spoke to train companies, ticket retailers and information providers where we felt improvement was required. As a result:
- Greater Anglia now has PDFs of strike timetables on its website, with a link from the main strike information page
- Transport for Wales has added an explicit reference that season ticket holders not travelling on strike days should make a Delay Repay claim for a two-hour delay
- Trainline.com made it clearer that a reduced service will operate on the day after the strikes
- Red Spotted Hanky improved its banner to be clear that reduced service will operate on the day after the strikes.
Meanwhile on Twitter, we noticed a dip in the number of tweets on the topic – though still some strong feelings.
You’ve cancelled the 7.59 and 8.14 from pitsea to shoeburyness? How can the service be worse than yesterday on a day that was a strike. The next train is going to be rammed.
— John (@johnnyrae1) June 22, 2022
@LNER Thank you to Lyndsey and the other staff in the York Lounge and the staff on the 12:35 to Edinburgh for allowing me on an earlier train. Had to get a much earlier train from Leeds to York as half the Northern Trains are cancelled and I would have had a 3 hour wait.
— Brian (@Brian__Ives) June 22, 2022
Tuesday 21 June
Day one of the strikes. Overall things seem pretty quiet; people have heard the message to avoid travel if they can.
Some Transport Focus staff are visiting their local stations to monitor the situation on the ground.
Unsurprisingly really quiet at 8am at @NetworkRailMAN Looks to be as many staff on hand as there are passengers! Couple of people seeking advice. No access to upper level on station. Assume safety issue involving the escalators and stairs which were blocked off? @TransportFocus pic.twitter.com/w5W148IY4E
— David Sidebottom (@TF_davidS) June 21, 2022
An early-morning visit to Brighton revealed a much quieter station than normal and plenty of staff on hand for those passengers who were travelling.
Meanwhile at Cannon Street in London, which is closed, it was eerily quiet…
Another colleague who visited Fleet station for us reported that it looked like most people had stayed away and reverted to working from home.
However when we visited Wool, in Dorset, last night, we found no warning on ticket machines about not buying a ticket for the next day despite Wool having no trains – we’ve taken it up with South Western Railway. Just a simple sticker would help alert people. It is especially important in areas like this where there are tourists and holidaymakers that won’t have been glued to the news and may not even know there are strikes.
One Greater Anglia passenger reported that information about ticket validity during the strike had seemingly not reached station staff at Ipswich
@greateranglia GM. Your friendly and professional staff at ticket gates at IPS station are doing good job. However they’re unaware of the policy stated on your website: “Daily tickets can be used to travel the day before a strike day up to and including Tuesday 28 June.”
— Craig (@craigdinosaur) June 20, 2022
We’ve also asked those on our Transport User Panel, who had decided not to travel, about their experiences of getting a refund. One passenger said: “I have just done it – a bit laborious with having to cut up and photograph the tickets – seems a bit primitive, but it has been acknowledged so fingers crossed.”
Another reported issues with claiming for a refund on non-strike days when they have decided not to travel: “Cross Country have agreed to refund the cost of the ticket travelling out as that train is cancelled but refuse to refund the cost of the return journey for the return journey on 25 because the train will run. However I cannot use that ticket as I will have to travel to my destination (cricket match at Headingly) on the 23rd by car. They have suggested I travel earlier although will not of course pay any overnight costs. I think they are the only company behaving in this unreasonable manner.”
We’re also keeping an eye on social media:
So trains cancelled to London at weekend and need to now drive , can’t rearrange as got concert tickets , with the cost of fuel that’s going to be fun and as attempting refund from @Hull_Trains what an absolute joke !
— ALDO (@and_alan) June 21, 2022
Look out for more information on the situation on the ground and insight later this week as the strikes continue.
Monday 20 June
Tomorrow the rail strikes begin. We’re monitoring passenger experience throughout the disruption period with a household ‘omnibus’ survey to gauge mood and opinion before the strikes (results to be shared soon), feedback from our Transport User Panel (see below), mystery shopper visits to stations and website information reviews. We’ll be sharing findings throughout the week.
Today we heard from some panellists….
- “A colleague who would also have travelled by train, but – unlike me – owns a car has agreed to make a (quite large) detour to pick me up and get me home.”
- “Arranged a visit for 6 people to the British Museum to see a specific exhibition, Have cancelled tickets as 3 of the group have disabilities and cannot risk being stranded.”
- “Had a hospital appt for 9am on Tuesday. Travelling by car during the rush hour would be very time consuming and stressful, so intended to take the train and then bus. Still not prepared to drive, so have rearranged the appointment, but now have to wait for 7 weeks.”
- “As the train service is unlikely to run I will have to make the journey by bus. This makes a 20 minute journey take almost an hour in each direction. Also the timing of the train service is reliable (time wise) but the bus is likely to be delayed.”
- “Was going to catch train to Manchester Airport for holiday overseas. As train strike is on, will now travel by car & use parking, incurring additional parking charge, not expected initially.”