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More train hell for commuters

But leisure travellers have better choice of the best and worst train companies in the UK

Ticket prices are going up, with the average fare rising by 3.4% this month but train companies aren’t keeping their customers happy according to the results of our latest survey.

We asked 14,000 train passengers to tell us about their experiences of the train companies they use for work or for leisure so we could rate the 28 train companies across the country. Our survey found that many commuters are stuck with services they find unacceptably poor. At the bottom of our table, blighted commuter service Southern Railway scored 28% with commuters, while long distance firm Grand Central, which runs trains between London and the North East, topped the chart with 64%.

A poor deal for commuters

Southern Railway, which operates services from Sussex and Surrey into London was all over the news in 2017, with strikes, cancellations and overcrowding devastating commuters on their way to work. Survey respondents also complained of expensive tickets, dirty carriages and rude staff. One described it as ‘the worst performing train company in the UK’ and another told us ‘it is very hard to know whether your train is running or not – you just can’t rely on them’.

Train company Customer score Punctuality Availability of seats Availability of standing space Value for money
1 Grand Central (52) 64% **** **** **** ****
2 Translink NI Railways (53) 62% **** *** **** ****
3 Chiltern Railway (64) 61% **** **** *** ***
3 Virgin Trains West Coast (134) 61% **** **** **** ***
.. ..
27 South Eastern (202) 39% ** ** ** *
27 Thameslink & Great Northern (133) 39% *** ** *** **
28 Southern Railway (216) 28% ** * ** *

What is it really like?

We spoke to commuters on our three worst performing train companies, Southern, Southeastern and Thameslink & Great Northern, to see what it’s really like every day. They described their journeys as ‘hellish’, ‘awful’ and ‘consistently delayed’. One person who travels between Brighton and London said, ‘what annoys me most is that the situation isn’t improving and in return we have to endure above inflation fare hikes.’ Another travelling with Great Northern, which operates services between London and Cambridge among others, described how ‘people are packed in uncomfortably and [they] have even missed trains before because [they] couldn’t get on them.’ While commuters on Southeastern described how they have recently found that their peak time trains have been shortened leading to ‘an already congested train becoming almost impossible to board at stops further down the line’.

What you can do

Commuters generally have little say over when they travel to work, and with which train company. It’s therefore vital that they claim compensation when their train is delayed. Not all train companies make it easy to get a refund in the event of late-running or cancelled trains, so Which? is campaigning for automatic compensation for rail passengers. Find out more and sign the petition here.

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