Transport User Voice November 2023 – Chief executive’s editorial

01 November 2023

Stormy times…

While the weather has been battering parts of the country, transport users are not the only ones that have had to change plans. The rail industry’s consultation on proposals to close ticket offices came to an abrupt end as, following our and London TravelWatch’s objections to the proposals, the Government called a halt to the whole process.

Powerful concerns were expressed among the 750,000 consultation responses we received – especially from disabled passengers. While the proposals improved considerably during the discussions with train companies, too many issues were not sufficiently addressed.

Transport Focus has always seen the potential merit in re-deploying ticket office staff at some stations to be more visible and accessible on platforms. This process and the wealth of information, debate and detail now in the public domain has strongly advanced how this could be done in ways that might command public confidence. Some train companies, such as Chiltern, GWR and TransPennine Express, ended up with proposals that very nearly satisfied all our criteria. So, I suspect this issue will come back one day.

Meanwhile in other places the rail industry struggles to provide stable, reliable services. Avanti, suffering from over time bans and new train training, is reducing services over Christmas and New Year. GTR, cannot find enough replacement buses on the first Sunday in December to cover engineering works north of London. The result? No trains and no buses, leaving passengers to fend for themselves. What led to this decision? Did anyone think about cancelling the works until replacements can be found? The railway risks becoming irrelevant if it literally cannot provide any service at all!

Elsewhere, better news. Our Motorway Services User Survey 2023 is out. This detailed benchmarking survey drives real change as operators vie to be top and not bottom! Money is invested to improve services, which we then measure the next year. A great case study of cost effective ‘soft power’ with impressive 100 per cent satisfaction at Rugby services and many others scoring very high results.

Bus passengers were warmed by news that the £2 flat fare will remain in place for some time. Anything that helps people choose public transport is helpful to all – we know from years of insight that cost and convenience are the main drivers of how to travel.

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