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Transport User Voice – March 2022 – Chief executive’s editorial

24 February 2022

Will there be calm after the storm?

So, Eunice has moved on.

It looks like lessons from previous storms have been learned. With a very clear set of severe weather warnings, the transport industry reacted well with widespread, good quality information. The recovery felt quite swift and effective. Hopefully, we’ll see more of that in the face of disruptive weather yet to come.

Our new survey on electric vehicle recharging benchmarking is now being piloted. In time, this will drive up standards and help give people the confidence to consider an electric vehicle as a viable option.

Our groundbreaking survey of lorry driver facilities is being tested out too. Again, this will eventually help operators and others to spot good practice and see where improvements need to be made. Lorry drivers must take breaks and they need and deserve decent places to take those breaks. We all rely on them to make our lives work.

It’s good to see the Transport Focus Strategic Roads User Survey back in action. This provides valuable feedback to National Highways, highlighting the customer experience day to day.

The battering from the storms may have subsided but public transport is still being buffeted by financial and other pressures. Passenger numbers and revenue are on the rise again but are still not reaching pre-pandemic levels (especially as Government support is potentially lowered).

Crowding is flaring up in some places. Operators need to keep a beady eye on capacity and add in more where it can be justified. On rail, we don’t want to go back to a time of unreliable timetables with packed trains. This messy phase is likely to last some time – we still don’t know to what extent commuting by train and bus will build up again. However, we’ll keep checking the passenger experience through our Bus and Rail Weekly Surveys.

In fact, with Government no longer recommending people work from home, we’ve been taking the opportunity to get back out and about once again and speak to you directly. Meeting rail and bus passengers in real life really helps us to take the pulse of the transport-using public. There’s no feedback that beats speaking face-to-face with passengers as they make their journey. The experience is still real in their mind so it’s the best time to listen to their thoughts.

We spent a few hours at one of Britain’s central hubs, Birmingham New Street station, to get among a steady stream of commuters and leisure travellers, asking them a few simple questions about their latest journey. Why were they taking public transport? Were they satisfied? What would they like to see improve?

We received some really useful and insightful feedback which we shared with the Department for Transport. You can see a shortened video of it here.

Staying with rail, Great British Railways (GBR) is set to revolutionise the industry, bringing it under a single, national leadership with a new brand and identity and a more passenger-focused railway. We’ve long argued that the needs of passengers must be at the heart of the railway. But what are these needs? What do passengers want now and in the future, and what might encourage non or lapsed users to get back on board?

Our research in this area has been summarised in Transforming rail travel.  It’s your voice in the new railway plan – highlighting the themes and areas that GBR need to focus on, what it should deliver and how it should be delivered. We’ll keep updating it as our research continues.

All our survey work is vital. How can any improvement happen without feedback from you? But there’s one thing transport users say time and time again. Give us reliable services, please! This remains the key driver of satisfaction with all types of transport.

Let’s hope there aren’t too many more storms on the horizon to get in the way of this happening.

 

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