Transport User Voice – October 2016 – You and your train company

26 September 2016

In this regular section we update on our work to boost the passenger voice in rail franchising. Click to find out more about this work in general.

Franchise ‘aspirations’

We will shortly be publishing our round-up of passengers’ key areas for improvement, across all rail franchises.

Based around the stages of a passenger’s journey, with some high-level overarching themes, it will be available both as a reference document and a more interactive web page.

For each stage of the journey we set out major findings from our extensive research base and include references to key publications.

Our research, including information about the passenger experience from the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS), which is a bi-annual report of passengers’ opinions on the services they have used, and Rail Passengers’ Priorities for Improvement can be found on our website, alongside specific pages relating to individual rail franchises.

This work is designed to complement our existing programme of work on individual rail franchises.


 West Midlands

The Department for Transport published its Invitation to Tender for the West Midlands franchise on 30 August.

It sets out key objectives for the new eight-and-a-half year franchise including being a railway that is better for passengers, communities and the economy, and better value for taxpayers. It highlights the need to support devolution and the development of HS2.

Commenting on the West Midlands franchise invitation to tender, Transport Focus passenger director David Sidebottom said:

“Passengers across the West Midlands rail network tell us that their key priorities for improvement are better value for money services and the ability to get a seat on frequent, punctual services.

“It is essential that any new franchise puts passengers’ interest at the heart so it’s good to see that extra carriages are to be introduced to manage overcrowded services, new ticket deals for part-time commuters and the requirement for a quick and simple Delay Repay compensation scheme, including for delays over 15 minutes.”

Link to Stakeholder Briefing Document

Our response:


West Coast

Value for money, punctuality and capacity – all priorities for the next West Coast rail operator.

The InterCity West Coast (ICWC) franchise, currently operated by Virgin Trains, ends in April 2018 and the Department for Transport (DfT) is running a competition to find an operator for the next franchise.

We used our passenger research (including this work specifically on West Coast passengers) to respond to the DfT’s consultation on the franchise.

We set out key issues to address in the franchise specification, and by bidders before the contract is let.

Priority areas to be improved in the next franchise include:

  • value for money
  • punctuality and reliability
  • capacity
  • minimising and managing disruption
  • passenger information.

Alongside this, there must also be improvements to many other elements of the journey experience including seamless ticketing, on-board facilities and cleanliness, connectivity, station environments and customer service.

Read our response to the consultation.


South Western

The present South Western franchise, operated as South West Trains by the Stagecoach Group, is scheduled to run until June 2017. Shortlisted bidders for the next franchise, Stagecoach Group and First Group/MTR, submitted tenders to the DfT earlier this month.

We will now review the bidders’ proposals and provide feedback on their plans for better stations and delivering good customer experience. This will help inform DfT as the decision on the next operator is made, although Transport Focus itself does not play a part in this final stage.

The franchise is due to be awarded in February 2017, ready for the contract to start in June.


Rail Franchising inquiry

Transport Focus has been called to give evidence to the Transport Select Committee’s rail franchising inquiry on 10 October.

The inquiry draws together and follows up on a number of key issues raised in recent reviews and considers the extent to which rail franchising is achieving its key policy intentions.

Terms of reference:


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