Accountability, accountability, accountability
Most passengers don’t feel the railways is run for their benefit. New research published today by Transport Focus to inform the Williams Rail Review also confirms that that knowing who answers for how well their railway runs is also key for passengers.
In January passengers in focus groups convened in five cities around the country were asked about their current experiences with rail, what they know about the rail industry as a whole (including who owns or runs it), which parts work – in their view, what needs to be improved, how (ideally) the rail industry should be structured, how they should be consulted and informed in future, and how change should be delivered.
Given what is already clear from the National Rail Passenger Survey, it was no surprise to Transport Focus that these passengers made plain they are not getting the train service they pay for and want a more reliable service that is better value for money.
Few feel they have a relationship with their train company, and where they do they consider it to be one-sided. Leisure travellers have different expectations and experiences compared to commuters – who often feel captive and hard done by – obliged to pay more each year to sit on busy services where performance is going down.
Nevertheless, passengers accept there is a role for market forces and regulation, sometimes in tandem, and often recognise that no one form of public/private sector involvement in the railway will suit the entire railway.
Above all, the passengers who participated in this research care more about outputs and the travel experience than they do about industry structures. So whichever model is selected to run the system in future – these passengers made plain they want to know that somebody is in charge of their railway and can be held accountable for performance in future.
For many, this issue of accountability – or a lack of it – coupled with a perceived lack of ‘customer-focus’ leads passengers to believe the system is based arounds the needs of the railway rather than their needs. This has to change.
The results of this research have been submitted to the Williams Rail Review. It is also informing the discussion taking place today when the Board of Transport Focus meets Rail Review chief Keith Williams in public.
For passengers and Government this is an important moment in the Rail Review.
The summary report explains the headline findings from the focus group research.
Full results from the research agency can also be found on the Transport Focus website.