Train passengers anxious about increasingly busy trains

18 June 2021

Nearly half of train passengers told the watchdog it was busier than expected on board. And nearly one in five in the latest survey from Transport Focus said it was ‘a lot’ busier than expected.

The latest Travel during Covid-19 survey found that one in five people used public transport in the last seven days, more than at any point since the survey began in May 2020. Half-term holidays and improved weather have seen more people taking advantage of eased restrictions and choosing to use public transport.

Despite the continuation of restrictions more people can still be expected to return to the railway. We know many are starting to head back into offices, and to plan travel for long-awaited holidays and reunions with friends and family.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said:

“There are signs the welcome return of passengers has begun to affect the experience. It’s important that passengers do their bit by complying with the rules, including wearing face coverings (unless exempt). The railway should maintain passengers’ confidence by providing clear and prominent information about busier services. They must be straight with passengers when social distancing may not be possible so they can make an informed choice.”

In recent weeks just seven in 10 rail passengers were satisfied with the overall journey, a decline from more than more than eight in 10 in May. Rail passengers’ satisfaction with the ability to keep a safe distance has also fallen steadily.

In April Transport Focus published Will there be space onboard? highlighting passengers’ strong appetite for information about how busy public transport will be. There is still a need for improvement, with our latest survey showing only half of passengers are satisfied with how easy they’d found it to get this information.

Our analysis shows that overall satisfaction is closely linked with whether public transport was busier than expected. Just two in three of those who felt that their train was busier than they expected were satisfied with the overall journey compared to eight in 10 where the train was as busy, or less busy than expected.

Rail passengers’ satisfaction with other passengers’ behaviour has also declined, with just two in three rail passengers satisfied. Compliance with face coverings is a concern for many passengers, especially when social distancing is more difficult. Just two in three rail passengers were satisfied with the number of people wearing face coverings and almost one in five were dissatisfied.

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