Accountable leadership for the railway is key for passengers

12 March 2019

New research published today by Transport Focus to inform the Williams Rail Review confirms that most passengers don’t feel the railways is run for their benefit.

Launching the research, shortly before the Board of Transport Focus meets rail review chief Keith Williams in public, Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said:

“Like most people using the railway, most of the passengers who participated in this research know they are not getting the train service they are paying for. This research underscores that passengers want a more reliable service that is better value for money and – whichever model is selected to run the system –  that they want to know who is in charge of their railway.

“For many, the 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”.

Focus group research conducted in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff in January 2019 by Transport Focus confirms that passengers:

  • Have limited and vague understanding about how the railway is structured and care more about outputs and the travel experience than structures.
  • See rail as a public service where there is a role for market forces and regulation, sometimes in tandem. Think any structure/model used to manage and deliver the railway needs to accommodate and embrace the social purposes of rail as well as other attributes.
  • Recognise that no one form of public/private sector involvement in the railway will suit the entire railway. Moreover, while public or private models offer simplicity that is attractive, the ‘hybrid’ franchise and concession models could harness strengths from both sectors.
  • Rarely feel they have a relationship with their train company and where they do consider it to be one-sided. For many, the 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 those of passengers.
  • Have different expectations and experiences when commuting compared to when they travel for leisure. Commuters often feel hard done by – captive on busy services for which they must pay more each year even if performance is going down.
  • Are noticing the benefits of investment in better trains, onboard services and stations. Increasingly see the ability to use travel time productively (whether for work or social purposes) one of the main competitive advantages of rail over other travel modes.


Notes to editors

Transport Focus welcomes the Williams Rail Review because it provides the opportunity to reform the structure and systems of the railway. Transport Focus is working to ensure the voice of passengers is placed at the heart of the review

The summary report setting out the headline findings from research and the full results from the research agency were published today.

This research forms the second submission from Transport Focus to the Rail Review. It builds upon the themes set out in Williams Rail Review: what do passengers want? (February 2019).

A third submission later in the spring will set out the views and aspirations of non-users – since it is vital that any new structure also looks to attract future passengers as well as those who already use the railway. Transport Focus will also submit a report looking at levels of trust – do passengers trust their  train company and what can be done to improve this relationship?

For further information please contact: Kieran Watkins: 0300 123 0836

For urgent out of hours media enquiries please call 0300 123 2181.

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