Transport User Voice – September 2018 – Chief executive’s editorial

29 August 2018

After the storm – how can the railway win back trust?

Trust in the rail industry has been damaged by the severe disruption following the May 2018 timetable changes. This moment should have become part of a good news story, with welcome investment in infrastructure improvements, more frequent services and longer, better trains coming soon.

Transport Focus welcomes the additional compensation now available to some of the worst affected passengers, but there is much more to do to rebuild passengers’ confidence in the railway.

We call on governments and the rail industry to set out clearly how it will meet three key challenges where passengers expect better:

  • Improve punctuality and reliability with real transparency about performance.
  • Reform fares to improve value for money and ensure fares make sense. This will both reward existing customers and attract new off-peak travellers.
  • Provide hassle free compensation and a fair deal during improvement works.

‘Something must be done..’ is the cry all around Government and the rail industry following the timetable crisis. Yes, looking at the system and who is in overall charge is helpful, but only and as long as any conclusions are based around what passengers want.

When you boil down the National Rail Passenger Survey or review our work on priorities for improvement, franchise replacements and trust, then the same, clear message comes through again and again. Stick to your basic promise: the timetable.

Passengers want a reliable, frequent railway with more chance of getting a seat or at least standing in comfort. Deliver these and passengers might forgive other things.

Meanwhile our new Strategic Roads User Survey is in field and producing useful, interesting benchmarking of Highways England operating areas. On the buses it’s been great to see value for money scores jumping up in the West Midlands (following the introduction of zonal fares and contactless payment) and the ‘exact fare only’ barrier to travel finally being worn down. We also look forward to reviewing the results of field work that kicks off this month for both our next Bus Passenger and Tram Passenger surveys. Yet again this year we will involve around 170,000 transport users in our work – that is a powerful voice which we deploy to make a difference.

August also saw us welcome three new board members: Kate Denham, Keith Richards and Rob Wilson.

Finally, we are looking forward to a lively – sold out ! – conference on 4 September with Heathrow on the future measurement of transport user satisfaction.


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