Rail user satisfaction at 20 year low

Passenger satisfaction with rail services has fallen to a 10-year low, according to the independent transport watchdog, Transport Focus.

A survey of 25,000 people found 79% were satisfied overall with services, the lowest since 2008, with more than one in five passengers not satisfied.

Worsening punctuality, last summer’s timetable chaos and strikes are among the reasons for the fall. Rail firms Northern and Great Northern saw the biggest drops in satisfaction.

Comparing autumn 2018 with autumn 2017, two of the 25 train operating companies (TOCs), Heathrow Express and Chiltern Railways, “significantly improved”. Heathrow Express scored the highest rating of 96%.

But over the same period seven operators “significantly declined”: Great Northern, which had the lowest rating of 68%, Northern, TransPennine Express, Greater Anglia, Thameslink, ScotRail and London North Eastern Railway.

Last year, Northern services were affected by engineering overruns, an unusually high amount of leaves on tracks and strikes, as well as the timetable chaos in May that affected all train operators.

Other findings from the Transport Focus survey included:

  • 71% were satisfied with levels of punctuality and reliability
  • 46% were satisfied with value for money
  • The value for money measure fell to 31% for commuter journeys

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said: “Government and the industry must continue to focus on performance. In the longer term, the government’s Rail Review must bring about fundamental change.

“Passenger irritation at poor performance erodes their most basic trust in the industry. Passenger frustration at continual fare increases saps confidence in the system to reform itself.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Passenger satisfaction is an absolute priority for the department, which is why we’ve introduced new measures on compensation, an independent rail ombudsman and commissioned an independent root and branch review of our railway.

“The survey did find that four out of five journeys are rated satisfactory, and our record £48bn investment will help to modernise the network and deliver significant improvements in performance, punctuality and capacity across the country.”

Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Punctuality is the bedrock of satisfaction for our customers and at the moment in too many places, we are not getting it right.

“Working together, we are investing billions of pounds in a long-term plan to rebuild key parts of the network to improve punctuality while putting thousands of new and refurbished carriages on track to make journeys more comfortable.”