Rail passenger satisfaction at lowest level for a decade

29 January 2019

Passenger satisfaction with rail services has fallen to a 10-year low. In the latest survey, overall satisfaction with rail services was 79 per cent, the lowest level since 2008, with more than one in five passengers (21 per cent) not satisfied.

Transport Focus’s latest National Rail Passenger Survey, which captures satisfaction of more than 25,000 passengers with their latest journey, is published today.

With worsening punctuality, the timetable chaos last summer, and lamentable strikes, passengers are less happy than at any time since 2008, said the rail passenger watchdog today.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said:

“Our latest survey confirms passenger satisfaction has fallen to a 10-year low. Government and the industry must continue to focus on performance. In the longer term the Government’s Rail Review must bring about fundamental change.

“Passenger irritation at poor performance erodes their most basic trust in the industry. Passenger frustration at continual fare increases saps confidence in the system to reform itself. Passenger anger during the summer timetable crisis was palpable.

“A better value for money and more reliable railway must arrive soon for passengers.”

Some better – some worse

Comparing the percentage of journeys that passengers rated as satisfactory overall with the same measure in Autumn 2017, two (out of 25) train companies have significantly improved – Heathrow Express and Chiltern Railways. Over the same period seven operators have significantly declined – Great Northern, Northern, TransPennine Express, Greater Anglia, Thameslink,  ScotRail and London North Eastern Railway. There is a gap of 27 percentage points in overall satisfaction between the train companies with the highest and lowest satisfaction rating.

Key trends

Nationally the percentage of journeys rated as satisfactory overall for punctuality/reliability:  was 71 per cent, a figure significantly down year on year compared to 74 per cent in Autumn 2017 and substantially lower than the 81 per cent recorded in autumn 2008.

The proportion of journeys rated by passengers as satisfactory in terms of value for money for the price of their ticket scored nationally at 46 per cent, a figure that is unchanged compared to autumn 2008. Among commuters, just 31 per cent of those surveyed rated their journey as value for money.

Passenger satisfaction with how train operators dealt with delays scored 37 per cent in the latest survey but ranged between 29 per cent (Southern and Thameslink) and 77 per cent (Grand Central).

In London and the South East 78 per cent of passenger journeys were rated as very or fairly satisfactory (a significant fall from 80 per cent the previous year, and 82 per cent in autumn 2008).

On long distance operators 83 per cent of passenger journeys were rated as very or fairly satisfactory overall in autumn 2018, a significant fall from 86 per cent the year before (and still below the 84 per cent rating in 2008). Punctuality/reliability saw a large fall in satisfaction (-7 per cent) in contrast to reliability of internet connection (+5 per cent).

Overall satisfaction also fell for regional operators to 79 per cent in the latest survey. The biggest declines in satisfaction were with usefulness of information about delays (-13 per cent and how well train operators dealt with delays (-11 per cent). It is notable that overall satisfaction for regional operators stood at 86 per cent in autumn 2008.

Notes to editors

The National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS), is one of the largest published passenger satisfaction surveys of rail passengers in the world.

In the latest survey – between 1 September and 16 November 2018 – Transport Focus surveyed 26,766 passengers.

Summary – overall satisfaction Autumn 2018 National Rail Passenger Survey

Journey type Autumn 2018 (% satisfied) Autumn 2008 (% satisfied)
National (GB) 79% 83%
National – commuters 71% 77%
London and South East 78% 82%
Long distance 83% 84%
Regional 79% 86%


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