Transport User Voice – December – Editorial

29 November 2018

It’s been a busy month securing wins for road users and rail passengers:

Transport Focus’s new report on the experience of disabled motorists and passengers using  major ‘A’ roads and motorways is out. Launched on 29 November by Nusrat Ghani MP, the minister who promotes disability in transport, this report makes compelling reading: reliable journeys, good quality information and signage, plus service area improvements to deliver more parking and better toilet facilities all figure. Much of the established debate about disability and transport focuses on public transport. This report sets out to widen that discussion and drive attention to what needs to happen in order to make the major road network managed by Highways England accessible and inclusive.

On 26 November the new Rail Ombudsman finally arrived. Transport Focus has put in three years’ work to make this a reality, so it’s great to see the new scheme in action. Rail passengers now have access to binding, free and independent dispute resolution. Many complaints about the delivery of services and information will be eligible for the new scheme. However, Transport Focus will continue to offer advice about how to complain effectively, and to deal with issues raised by passengers – mainly about service specification. Government sets out much of the design of services and train companies can do little about those issues. In time, the acid test of any such scheme is how it leads to improvement in performance and complaints handling across the rail sector.

This month has also seen the launch of research reports exploring the national experience of the coach and logistics sector, and of all road users on two key ‘A’ roads in southern England. In addition, we have published the brand new Strategic Roads User Survey, which anyone can now interrogate – alongside the Bus Passenger Survey – on the new Transport Focus Data Hub. From the outset, this venue aims to make the exceptional work delivered by the Transport Focus insight research team more easily available to a wider number of people and stakeholder groups – all part of our drive to be more efficient and effective. Over the coming year we plan to add data to this portal from our other regular surveys.

Alongside all of this work, Transport Focus is also now in the process of pulling together its input to the Government’s Rail Review. Work also continues on the joint Rail Delivery Group and Transport Focus fares review. Both these initiatives are intended to provide key building blocks for the way the rail industry can improve services for passengers in future.

Finally, we held a successful series of public events in Manchester – one focused on rail, bus and road performance across the North and another on transport challenges facing the Greater Manchester region. At both it was possible for the Transport Focus Board and members of the public to level searching questions at senior industry figures. This type of scrutiny is all the more important as parts of the rail network continue to suffer from knock on effects after autumn, strikes and general poor performance.

Against the recent backdrop of ‘autumn’ disruption, significant delays in some areas and service cancellations due to strike action in others, passengers still reeling from summer timetable chaos simply won’t believe today’s announcement that fares are going up again in January! Passengers now pour over £10 billion a year into the rail industry, alongside significant government investment. They want to get what they have paid for – a more reliable railway that is better value. Until this arrives, passenger trust in the railway won’t begin to recover.

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