Best and worst UK train companies Best train companies overall

Grand Central and First Hull Trains top our satisfaction survey

grand central logo 2015

Long-distance train company Grand Central tops our 2015 survey 

Two small companies running just a handful of long-distance services a day triumphed in the Which? train satisfaction survey for 2015.

Grand Central runs just four trains a day each way between London and Bradford, and five between London and Sunderland. But it tops our satisfaction table with a customer score of 76%, the highest we've seen in four years of running the survey.

First Hull Trains, which operates seven daily services between London and Hull, is second with 69%. 

Both operators get great reports from passengers who like the cleanliness of the trains and the ease of getting a seat. Grand Central was also praised for friendly staff, and one First Hull Trains customer said they had never had anything to complain about in years of using the service.

Worst train companies

At the other extreme was Thameslink & Great Northern, operated by Govia Thameslink Railway, which took over the service from First Capital Connect in September 2014. For the purposes of this year’s survey, we combined responses about both companies to produce one customer score; an uninspiring 43%. 

Passengers say almost everything about the service is poor, including value for money, cleanliness and punctuality. The age of the trains is also a common gripe. 

One passenger told us: ‘The trains are out of date and tatty, there aren’t enough carriages and the fares don’t reflect the level of service.’ 

The bottom six slots in the survey are all filled by operators that carry a higher proportion of harder-to-please commuters and cover congested parts of the network around London. None score above 50% and all are rated poor value.

 

Best and worst train companies - overall
Train companyAvailability of seatingCleanliness of toiletsCondition of the trainPunctualityReliabilityValue for moneyCustomer score
Grand Central (112)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars76%
First Hull Trains (118)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars69%
Merseyrail (144)3 starsn/aa3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars64%
C2C (146)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars62%
East Coast (538)b3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars62%
Virgin Trains (392)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars60%
Chiltern Railways (146)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars57%
London Overground (146)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars56%
London Midland (297)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars55%
Scotrail (484)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars55%
East Midlands Trains(295)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars53%
First TransPennine Express (340)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars53%
CrossCountry (195)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars52%
Arriva Trains Wales (237)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars51%
Northern Rail (490)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars49%
South West Trains (528)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars48%
First Great Western (587)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars47%
Abellio Greater Anglia (389)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars46%
Southern (434)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars46%
Southeastern (483)3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars44%
Thameslink & Great Northern/First Capital Connect
(483)
3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars5 stars5 stars43%
Sample sizes in brackets. Overall sample 7,309. Average customer score for UK companies is 52%. Customer scores and star ratings relate to both commuter and leisure journeys, and are based on overall satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending that train company to a friend. To be given a customer score, we need 30 responses from each of commuter and leisure passengers. Grand Central carries a smaller proportion of commuters than other companies and we have worked out its customer score based on a lower number of responses from commuters. a. Merseyrail trains don't have toilets. b. East Coast becomes Virgin Trains East Coast in March 2015.

 

Our research

In our November 2014 survey of the general public we received 7,309 responses from commuter and leisure travellers about the journeys they had taken in the previous 12 months. Each train company is rated in categories we know mean a lot to our customers, and given an overall customer score. 

Trains in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s Translink is not included in our table as it is publicly owned and is regulated differently, so its customer score isn’t directly comparable with other companies. It scores 69%, based on 196 responses.

More on this...