Transport User Voice – March 2019 – Chief executive’s editorial

27 February 2019

Transport users and safe, reliable journeys

New research work published by Transport Focus underlines just how important reliable (and safe) journeys are to underpinning user satisfaction.

First off there is some new research – probably the first in this area – summarising what drivers want the Government to set by way of targets for Highways England to deliver against from 2020 to 2025. A huge amount of investment is being delivered or started during that (second) road investment period. Three key messages emerge from the new research: road users want a safe, well maintained road network that allows fast and reliable journeys.

The next wave of the Bus Passenger Survey is out soon and will no doubt also feature congestion and reliability as it has done in previous years. The launch event in Bristol will be lively so book your place soon, as space is limited.

The latest wave of the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) that emerged at the end of January was equally stark. That phase of NRPS covered the experience of over 27,000 rail passengers during their last journey at some point during a ten-week period from September to November last year. As we reported last month, passenger satisfaction fell to its lowest for 10 years. Why? Satisfaction tracks rail performance closely, both up and down. While some train companies and Network Rail areas have stabilised their performance, others are still struggling.

In Scotland, where overall satisfaction fell for its lowest level for 16 years, the latest survey data is having an impact.

NRPS results will also provide useful input to the Government’s on-going Williams Rail Review ahead of a meeting in public on Tuesday 12 March between the Transport Focus Board and Keith Williams. A major part of this will be the next steps for fares reform set out by the Rail Delivery Group in its recently published Easier Fares for All proposals.

Transport Focus is also preparing a submission to the Rail Review detailing what is known about the views of non-users – since it is vital for the future of the railway to attract more people to off-peak rail travel. This will be published soon, along with the results of other new research undertaken recently in focus groups around the country to gather passengers’ views about the future structure of the rail industry.

Meanwhile, with help from Transport Focus, the rail industry is getting better at handling major engineering works. The recent nine-day closure on the southern part of the busy Brighton to London line seems to have been well planned and executed with well organised bus replacement services. Transport Focus also helped the industry get the communications right before and during the works (and hopes to do the same as other works kick off at Euston and King’s Cross). It also ran a survey to capture accurate feedback about the passenger experience during the works.

Finally, while it’s too soon to comment on the effectiveness of the new Rail Ombudsman, Transport Focus is watching progress in this area closely. While the new scheme is having some impact on the type of complaints we now get asked to resolve, there remains a steady stream of issues that Transport Focus can continue to help with. This month’s case study offers one story well worth reading about.

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