Transport User Voice – January – Chief executive’s editorial

21 December 2018

Phew. The rail timetable changes on 9 December went relatively smoothly. More services and more choices are great. But many parts of the railway continue to struggle with poor, patchy performance.

As fare rises loom in early January, passengers may well be wondering when a reliable railway will be delivered, as they pour over £10 billion a year into the industry on top of the significant amounts of taxpayer investment. When will all this money produce a more reliable, better value for money service?

The Government’s Rail Review is important. Change is essential, but passengers cannot wait for the findings later in 2019, let alone any action that might follow. Passengers need help now! Governments and the railway must keep focused on the day-to-day railway that we all rely on. The lamentable strikes on Northern Rail and elsewhere are simply piling on the misery.

The next wave of our National Rail Passenger Survey is out on Tuesday 29 January. This will be a good test of passenger opinion from September to November 2018.

As the year closed, we also learned the Government is considering whether to extend the remit of Transport Focus to cover air passengers. This is logical and could prove a potent way to extend our brand of user-focused, useful and evidence-based advocacy to this important area.

Recent wins for the advocacy work of Transport Focus include:

  • Introduction of Delay Repay 15 on Northern Rail – one of the key objectives in the compensation campaign run to provide relief for passengers affected by the timetable chaos last summer.
  • Helping Stagecoach South Yorkshire understand the effect of the bus driver on the passenger experience, from our Bus Passenger Survey results. This formed part of a big push by the company to improve communication with its staff and to highlight how passengers feel about the way drivers relate to them. Result? An improvement in scores that passengers gave when asked about their satisfaction with staff on the buses they use.
  • Focusing on better, more helpful communications around the A66 upgrade in Cumbria. Result? Much improved and clearer communication with drivers and haulage companies – an important group – around why the work is taking place, when it will be finished and which specific stages have been reached. Transport Focus is now looking also to ensure this approach is used more widely on other road projects by Highways England.
  • Improvements to communications around the Northern Rail compensation scheme, following the summer timetable problems. Result? A more accurate understanding of passenger awareness that informed promotional efforts and, ultimately, helped boost claim rates.
  • Disabled parking bays at Strensham motorway services on the M5 were moved closer to facilities following suggestions made in research published earlier this year.

So, happy New Year and travel safely!

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