Passenger Voice September 2016: Anthony Smith’s editorial

26 August 2016

Overcrowding, strikes and late trains continue to be in the spotlight, but in the middle of this passengers are just trying to catch trains and get on with their lives.

The past few months have been grim for many Southern passengers who simply want a reliable train service – many people build their lives around the timetable and pay handsomely for it.

Presumably many lessons are being learned about the whole Southern and Thameslink franchise problems: handover arrangements, franchise size, the pace of change, the list goes on…

It is time to radically boost compensation arrangements and freeze fare rises to go some way to start rebuilding trust.

The use of the Retail Price Index formula rather than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) masks the gap between wage and fare rises – time to start using the CPI in franchises. Yes, fare rises are now pegged at inflation and there is no power to flex fares on individual routes (following work by Transport Focus) but any fare rise seems unfair.

Passengers must also claim what is due to them when they are delayed. It is worth remembering that Southern is offering compensation against both the original and temporary timetables – so, if you normally caught the 7.30am but there is now no train until 8am you are already 30 minutes late. We will soon publish new research on compensation claim rates which will show an upward trend.

Meanwhile in Scotland, for the first time, we have surveyed customer satisfaction on the Caledonian Sleeper. Passengers gave detailed feedback about their journey; eight in ten Caledonian Sleeper passengers are happy with their service. I hope these latest findings lead to improvements targeted at the areas passengers care most about and also ensure they get a good night’s sleep!

To hear more about research that we are doing visit the ‘coming soon’ section of our website.

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