Transport User Voice – May 2020 – Coronavirus travel survey

27 April 2020

What are transport users saying?

How is travelling for those who still have to? Transport Focus and London TravelWatch used the Transport User Panel to ask passengers about what they thought of their journeys between 26 March to 7 April.

Almost half of panellists hadn’t made any journeys by public transport or by car in the last seven days. Almost nine in 10 of those who hadn’t made a journey in the last seven days said this was because they were following the Government advice not to travel. Of those who had made a journey, the majority were by car and mainly for essential shopping.

While it is reassuring that so many respondents were staying home, of course some people need to travel, including key workers. While many reported trouble-free journeys and public transport being quiet, key workers – including NHS staff – reported a range of experiences:

“Bus had encouraged social distancing by taping off alternate rows of chairs. They also introduced free travel for NHS staff which has greatly helped me. Driver was very friendly.”

“Trains are now running on an off-peak service. I have to leave home 20 minutes earlier to get to work at the same time (I’m a nurse). Yet I still have to pay full peak fares despite this service not being provided.”

“On the Monday the train journey was still busy… in general the trains have become less busy since approx Wed 25th. It is more noticeable that surfaces are being wiped clean, certainly on my return journeys from Glasgow Central on the Kilmarnock line. No one talks on the trains and it is a very surreal experience.”

“I found as a key worker caring for people with confirmed Covid 19 that the bus timetable had changed to one per hour and I had to wait in the cold for an hour for my first bus. I then had to wait a further 30mins for my next bus. It made me feel more weary than when I left the ward.”

With so many people no longer travelling we also wanted to find out more about season ticket holders’ experiences of claiming a refund. At the time of our survey we found around a third of rail season ticket holders and only one in 10 bus season ticket holders on our panel had so far made a refund claim.

Around a quarter of respondents who hadn’t yet made a claim for a refund on their rail or bus season ticket said they were either unsure if they could get a refund or of how to go about claiming. This illustrates the importance of clear information to help season ticket holders claim the refunds they are entitled to.

Rail season ticket holders who had attempted to claim reported mixed experiences, with around a third saying the claims process wasn’t easy. Many of those who had better experiences had visited the station to claim a refund, often before the restrictions were implemented on 23 March, or had been able to claim a refund by using their online smartcard account. Some rail season ticket holders expressed frustration they had struggled to contact the train company or – at the time – it had seemed they had no choice but to make a trip to a station.

Transport Focus has pressed for pro rata refunds and waiving of administration fees on rail season ticket refunds. Some people expressed objections to having to pay an administration fee, were disappointed with the way the refund was calculated or suggested that the option to ‘pause’ their ticket until the restrictions ended would have been more helpful.

People’s future travel plans have rarely been so uncertain. We’ll continue to seek feedback from transport users to ensure their experiences, perceptions and concerns are understood and acted on by governments and transport providers.

Click to read the Coronavirus travel survey.

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