Watchdog warns rail passenger satisfaction still ‘patchy’

27 January 2016

The problems faced by some of Britain’s rail commuters are holding back a bigger recovery in overall passenger satisfaction, warns independent watchdog Transport Focus.

Transport Focus surveyed more than 28,000 passengers as part of the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) – the largest published rail passenger satisfaction survey in the world.

The survey shows that a slight increase in overall rail passenger satisfaction to 83 per cent across the country has started to reverse previous declines. However, the overall scores for commuter satisfaction was 76 per cent, compared to 85 per cent for business and 90 per cent for leisure travellers.

Chief executive Anthony Smith said:

 “Punctuality and crowding drive passenger views of the railway. The value for money scores highlight the wide variations around the country and between different routes. Passengers rightly expect the train companies and Network Rail to keep to their basic promises with most trains on time, the right length and with few cancellations.”

Spiralling passenger numbers are putting increasing pressure on the rail network, both in its day-to-day operation and during rebuilding. While improvements and investments to the railway to cope with this growth are long overdue and very welcome, the process of rebuilding is proving painful in some places. 

Anthony Smith said:

“Passengers must be involved much more closely in the planning of future big investment programmes, such as at Waterloo and Euston. In addition, these schemes should have realistic expectations about performance and price freezes built in from the start. The deserved credit for the investment will be much harder to claim otherwise.”

Disruption to commuters in the South East caused by a variety of factors, including the London Bridge rebuild, has caused real difficulties. The watchdog is calling for Government, Network Rail and the train companies to start to restore trust here with credible promises, backed by the delivery of sustained, improved performance.

This should be backed by quick implementation of the Government’s welcome promise to cut the threshold for Delay Repay to 15 minutes from the current 30 – this misses shorter, but more regular delays. A fares reduction for badly affected passengers would also help.

Key findings include:

  •  Overall satisfaction by train company varied between 73 per cent (Thameslink) and 97 per cent (First Hull Trains).
  • The highest ratings for overall satisfaction were achieved by:
    • First Hull Trains (97 per cent)
    • Heathrow Express (95 per cent)
    • Grand Central (93 per cent)
    • Merseyrail (93 per cent).
  • The lowest ratings for overall satisfaction were given to
    • Thameslink (73 per cent)
    • Southeastern (75 per cent)
    • Southern (78 per cent).
  • Satisfaction with value for money by individual routes within train companies varied between 33 per cent (Thameslink: South) and 78 per cent (Grand Central: London-Bradford).

– Ends

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