Transport User Voice – August 2020 – What do rail passengers most want?

28 July 2020

Reliability and punctuality is the top priority

What would you most like to see improved on the railway? We asked more than 14,300 rail passengers to rank their priorities for improvement and found ‘reliability and punctuality’ came top. This was followed closely by value for money, then getting a seat on the train.

These results provide a clear sense of passengers’ aspirations and which priorities should be focussed on to improve passengers’ journeys. This research will ensure the passenger voice is heard when important strategic decisions about rail services and investment are made.

Since the research was done the railway has, like the rest of our lives, been dramatically changed by the Covid-19 pandemic. In the short-term Covid-19 is bound to have an impact on passengers’ priorities – not least when it comes to personal safety, space on the train and cleanliness – but the baseline results from this research will still be relevant.

Punctuality, capacity and value for money will continue to be important in a post-lockdown world. It may take some time, but people’s innate desire for face-to-face contact and the looming challenge of climate change mean demand for rail travel will surely return and grow again. Investment should continue to focus on infrastructure and trains, to boost the resilience, reliability and capacity of the network for passengers.

Value for money could come under even greater pressure now as individuals’ and governments’ finances feel the effects of the pandemic. The railway needs to win back passengers, but if there must be fare increases in future they should be pegged with inflation, using the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) not the discredited (and typically higher) Retail Prices Index (RPI). Governments and the rail industry need to have the courage to undertake long-overdue fares reform. ‘Split ticketing’ has gnawed away at trust in the system, and now working practices seem to be undergoing a lasting shift. As people will work from home more often, the railway must meet the demand for tickets that reflect this new way of working.

The large representative sample size allows the research findings to be ‘cut’ in numerous ways including by journey purpose, age, country, train company and Network Rail route. As well as publishing a summary report and the research agency slides, we have also produced a ‘simulator’ tool you can use to run priorities for different groups of passengers.

You can download the report, simulator and slides here.


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