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Peaky peak riles rail passengers

The new National Rail Passenger Survey out today shows satisfaction with peak time performance is waning badly in some places. Some commuters in London and the South East are getting a raw deal. Scotrail, long a good performer, has faltered.

The timetable on parts of the network is becoming increasingly brittle. As passenger numbers rise the ability of parts of the rail network to cope, until welcome improvements are in and working, will remain strained. Improvement works often make things even more difficult in the short term.

As ever performance is a mixed picture. Many train companies and Network Rail have stabilised performance, with some at good levels – Virgin West Coast for example.

However, other train companies such as Southern, Thameslink, Gatwick Express and Network Rail need to continue to collaborate to produce a timetable that has a better, more robust balance between peak and off peak services, reliability and capacity. In the coming weeks we will do further analysis on the peak commuter experience outside of London and the South East.

The Secretary of State’s focus on the way that track and train work together seems right. However, passengers may wonder why, 20 years after privatisation, we can still be in a place where the plans that Network Rail and the train companies have to work to can push them apart, not together.

What do passengers make of all this? When we have done work in the past on what they think of the way the industry is organised passengers are amazed at the complexity. They don’t really care who runs which bits. What they want to see is someone clearly in charge of their daily train service that they can rely on.


  • TonyS

    My general observation is that where a toc is focused on one clear route/line e.g. Chiltern and encouraged to grow then good things happen. No growth or restrictive rules and multiple foci at best retains the status quo – eg CrossCountry and is sometimes seen as failure.
    Imagination and the will to improve things or fix obvious faults need to be actioned – e.g shortage of DMU’s when 22 are used by Virgin on the all electric Birmingham – Scotland.
    Labour relations are a long term issue – DfT telling Southern to get rid of Guards is not the way to run Labour relations. Long term (15+ years) plans must be made and shared; if DfT want change they need to take ownership of the resulting issues – or create the equivalent of British Railways Board which has the responsibility.
    Comfort on trains is being removed – modern seats are less comfortable, there seem to be fewer on modern trains or crammed in – as in your recent experience on 700’s. Pendolino’s are cramped, HST’s are comfortable, and I have low expectations of the new IEP 800’s.

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