Putting passengers at the heart of rail services

28 March 2013

Much of the debate about the future of rail franchises centres on structures and financing – now Passenger Focus is calling for the debate to consider the passenger’s point of view.

The recent stalling of the rail franchise replacement process, the granting of an extension for Virgin, the Department for Transport enquiry into the West Coast franchise process and the forthcoming Brown review all shine a light on this process. This is important but looking at process alone risks ignoring the most important piece in the jigsaw – passengers.

It is passengers who use services and pay fares and who have a fundamental interest in any new franchise; and yet those same passengers probably have the least say in what is provided or proposed on their behalf.  

Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus chief executive, said:
“Passengers’ immediate needs are for value for money, punctual, clean trains where they have a reasonable chance of getting a seat. However, the franchise replacement process should put passengers at the heart of the railway. Passengers now pay nearly £8bn a year in fares. They should be given a clear and powerful voice at the centre of what can sometimes seem impenetrable processes.”

Our own submission to the Brown review looks at franchising from a passenger perspective and asks how the passenger voice can be better heard within the debate. We have published the letter on our website:

Key arguments include:

  • Stability is a key need for passengers – change breeds uncertainty
  • The needs of passengers and the type of services on particular routes should dictate franchise length, who lets the contract and the degree of specification
  • Clearly securing passenger benefits at the start of a franchise remains important
  • Boosting transparency and consultation during the replacement process and franchises can help secure passenger confidence.
    Passengers need to know how to feed their views in, what the options are and what is potentially being bought on their behalf. Passengers also need some confidence that their views will be sought and acted on during franchises
  • The need for both hard and soft targets in franchises remains to both incentivise train companies and ensure passengers know certain minimum standards will be met            


For further information please contact:
Sara Nelson, Head of Communications
Tel: 0300 123 0820 / 07918 626 125
or e-mail: sara.nelson@transportfocus.org.uk  

Notes to editors

  1. Passenger Focus is the official, independent consumer organisation representing the interests of rail users nationally and bus, coach and tram users across England outside London. We want to make a difference for rail, bus, coach and tram passengers.
    We’ll do this by:
    – providing authoritative advice for industry based on sound research
    – securing improvements to services – both big and small-scale improvements
    – helping passengers with advice and information
    – campaigning for change
    – acting on rail passenger complaints
  2. Please click the link below to view/download the letter to the Brown review:
  3. We provided an in-depth response to the original franchise consultation, available on our website here:
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