Rail fare satisfaction hits new lowOnly 40 per cent think they're worth the money

05 June 2007

The number of passengers who say rail fares offer good value for money has fallen to an all time low of just 40 per cent.

A survey of 25,334 travellers by independent rail watchdog Passenger Focus has also found that overall passenger satisfaction with rail journeys has fallen for the first time in three years – dropping two per cent to 79 per cent.

Twenty six per cent of passengers are also unhappy with the amount of room they have to sit or stand in.

Passengers said their experience was worse in 11 of the 30 key criteria which they were asked to rate. The biggest drops were on how well the train company dealt with delays, toilet facilities, and sufficient room.

Train operators

Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus Chief Executive, said: ‘The train operators with the biggest drops in passenger satisfaction need to listen to their passengers and take action. We hope this decrease is a dip and not the beginning of a trend.

‘It is the larger train operators that have brought the overall ratings down. Satisfaction with First Great Western and First Capital Connect services has slumped, with overall satisfaction on these operators dropping 6 per cent and 5 per cent to 72 per cent and 71 per cent respectively.

‘The Thames Valley services and former Wessex services provided by First Great Western have shown significant drops.  Fourteen per cent, or millions, of all rail journeys are with these operators. Northern Rail and First ScotRail passengers have also revealed that a number of their services have got worse.’

The Passenger Focus survey, which was carried out at 650 stations between January and March, found that 87 per cent of passengers travelling on long distance trains are satisfied with their journey overall.

'Significant improvements'

Passengers travelling with Midland Mainline said they’d seen a number of improvements and the company has climbed to the top of the long-distance sector.

TransPennine Express’s investment in new trains has also paid dividends – with passenger ratings for train facilities and the maintenance of trains up by 25 per cent.

Passenger Focus added that Arriva Trains Wales, Chiltern Railways and Central Trains had also worked hard to introduce significant improvements in a number of areas.

Glenda Lamont, Customer Services Director at First Great Western, said: ‘We are obviously disappointed by the drop in the overall figure for customer satisfaction.

‘However, as the survey took place in January and February, at the height of the problems we experienced with the introduction of a new timetable in December 2006 and the maintenance issues that affected the reliability and performance of our train fleet, this is not unexpected.

‘We already have in place a comprehensive service recovery plan that is addressing the problems we experienced earlier this year.  The plan delivers additional and more reliable rolling stock, more staff, timetable enhancements and improved customer service.’

Customer service

She added that First Great Western was investing £200 million to improve its trains and stations and this work was already beginning to produce ‘excellent results’.

First Capital Connect said it was ‘very disappointed indeed’ by the overall drop in customer satisfaction.

But it said that it had been working hard over the last 12 months to improve reliability, capacity and train and station facilities for customers. 

First Capital Connect Deputy Managing Director Andy Cope: ‘We always listen to what our customers tell us.  We are acutely aware that for our customers the key issue is one of overcrowding and we have worked hard since we took over the franchise in April 2006 to find solutions to this issue.'

He added: ‘I am confident that we will deliver further investment in the future and our customers will start to notice these improvements.’

Aspects of rail travel that passengers say have got worse:

National ratings - issue

% satisfied or good 

% change

How well train company dealt with delays

32

-3

The toilet facilities on trains

36

-3

The availability of staff on trains

38

-1

The value for money for the price of your ticket

40

-1

The space for luggage

47

-2

Sufficient room for all the passengers to sit/stand

59

-2

The helpfulness and attitude of staff on train

62

-2

The frequency of the trains on that route

75

-1

The ease of being able to get on and off

75

-2

Punctuality/ reliability of trains

77

-2

Overall satisfaction

79

-2