Transport User Voice – April 2019 – Accountable leadership for the railway is key for passengers

26 March 2019

Research informs Rail Review  

Most passengers don’t feel the railways is run for their benefit. New research published by Transport Focus to inform the Williams Rail Review also confirms that that knowing who answers for how well their railway runs is also key for passengers. 

This research informed discussion when the Board of Transport Focus met Rail Review chief Keith Williams in public on 12 March. This meeting provided members of the public and the rail industry with the opportunity to question Keith Williams on the emerging conclusions from the review and learn how Transport Focus is working to ensure the voice of passengers is placed at the heart of the review. 

Transport Focus convened focus groups in five cities around the country to ask passengers about their current experiences with rail, what they know about the industry as a whole (including who owns or runs it), which parts work – in their view, and what needs to be improved. Groups were also asked how they think the rail industry should be structured, how they should be consulted and informed in future, and how change should be delivered. 

Few passengers feel they have a relationship with their train company, and where they do, they consider it to be one-sided. Leisure travellers have different expectations and experiences compared to commuters – who often feel captive and hard done by – obliged to pay more each year to sit on busy services where performance is going down. 

Passengers do accept there is a role for market forces and regulation, sometimes in tandem, and often recognise that no one form of public/private sector involvement in the railway will suit the entire railway. 

Above all, the passengers who participated in this research care more about outputs and the travel experience than they do about industry structures. So, whichever model is selected to run the system in future – these passengers made plain they want to know that somebody is in charge of their railway and can be held accountable for performance in future. 

For many, this 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. 

The results of this research have been submitted to the Williams Rail Review. 

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