Rail fare 'dissatisfaction' grows, survey suggests

People queuing for train tickets at Victoria The survey suggests passenger satisfaction at journeys remains the same as a year earlier

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There is a growing feeling that train tickets across the UK do not represent value for money, a watchdog's survey of 30,000 rail passengers suggests.

Passenger Focus found 46% of rail users were satisfied their ticket was value for money compared with 49% a year ago.

But the number of passengers satisfied with their journey overall remained at 84%, according to the survey.

The Association of Train Operating Companies admitted it needed to tackle costs as well as improve services.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, said the national passenger survey illustrated "the impact that tough economic times, coupled with fare rises, are having".

He said: "These results will enable the industry and government to focus resources and effort where passenger satisfaction remains in the doldrums.

"It can be done and passengers will give them credit when investment and proactive management coincide."

Passenger Focus surveyed 30,590 travellers between 1 September and 18 November 2011 and asked people for their opinion on the journey they were taking on that day.

This was carried out before an average rise of 5.9% for all rail tickets, including unregulated fares such as advance and business tickets, came in at the beginning of January.

Commuters have faced increases of up to 11% on their ticket prices.

'Basic promise'

Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said of the survey: "We recognise that value for money scores remain lower than others and the whole industry needs to focus on tackling costs as well as improving services.

Start Quote

"We are sorry we have let our passengers down recently. We are absolutely determined to work closely with Network Rail to restore their trust and our normal high levels of service”

End Quote Tim Shoveller Managing director, South West Trains

"Successive governments have pursued above-inflation fare rises to reduce taxpayer subsidy while ensuring ongoing investment in the railways.

"The industry has already set out plans to cut the annual cost of the railway by £1.3bn a year by 2019 as a way to help limit future fare rises."

Passenger Focus found a large difference in levels of overall customer satisfaction depending on the area in which people travel.

Satisfaction scores for individual routes provided by different firms varied from 72% to 95%.

National Express East Anglia (NXEA) had the lowest overall satisfaction rating of all the train-operating companies at 77%, while Grand Central, which operates routes between London King's Cross and the north of England, had the highest rating, at 95%.

NXEA said a number of "disruptive infrastructure failures" last autumn affected its performance on certain days.

Managing director Andrew Chivers said: "We're obviously disappointed. We have been determined to improve customer satisfaction rates in our eight years running this railway. And while they are higher than when we started, they have not increased by as much as we had hoped."


Mr Chivers said he was encouraged by reported improvements in the survey in areas such as availability and comfort of seats on trains. He said it reflected the recent completion of an £185m investment programme.

Nationally, 81% of passengers were satisfied with punctuality, compared with 82% last year.

Passenger Focus singled out South West Trains and Chiltern for problems with punctuality, saying there had been a decline in satisfaction from 2010, but praised London Overground and Merseyrail for improvements.

Mr Smith said: "We know from this research that performance remains the key passenger priority.

"Train companies and Network Rail must keep up a relentless attention on getting trains on time, not only at the end of their routes, but at stations along the way as well.

"Passengers are still paying above-inflation fares rises and have every right to expect the industry to keep its basic promise to get them there on time."

South West Trains said it had launched a joint 10-point plan with Network Rail to tackle the drop in performance and fall in customer satisfaction in response to the survey.

The company said fatalities on the line had more than doubled in the last year and delays caused by cable theft incidents had increased by almost 500% year on year.

Managing director Tim Shoveller said "Our customers rightly expect a reliable train service and we understand their frustration. When disruption happens, they deserve clear information and a quick response to get trains running normally.

"We are sorry we have let our passengers down recently. We are absolutely determined to work closely with Network Rail to restore their trust and our normal high levels of service."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    The single fare to London from Preston costs twice as much as the fuel for my car, but the cheapest ticket costs a fraction of the full fare. As an owner businessman I can't travel 'when the fares are cheap' and I usually can't book any more than a week ahead of my intended journey. Virgin Trains are taking advantage of the business traveller at a time when businesses are struggling to survive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    I try and avoid trains as much as I can, as the cost is prohibitive.

    I also resent the pricing structure, where they ask you to book in advance, and then try and catch you out if your plans change - a legalized racket. I NEVER book in advance, as statistically, over time, you pay more - and THEY know it.

    Trains are not just expensive, they are exclusively expensive by design.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    If I travel from Hampshire to Hertfordshire it is still MUCH cheaper and faster to drive - despite having to round the M25 past M3,M4,Heathrow,M40, M1 and all the 50mph speed limit sections and roadworks.
    This seems wrong to me!
    I also drive to work as to go from Petersfield to Winchester is either a 40 minute drive or a train journey of 1h30, changing twice and costing a ridiculous amount.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    When the rail network was privatised a lot of people knew it would end up this way. what amazes me more is that the government is still subsidising private companies with tax payers money. You want capitalism? Fine just don't expect me to subsidise it. Get Rid of the Subsidies and when the private companies fail[as they will] then re-nationalise it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    On Wednesday afternoon (25th) the 9.21 am to Worcester from Paddington was already full, people standing as the station tannoy was still calling for passengers to board. Train companies should ensure passengers have seats. The recent fares rise is a kick in the teeth for travellers when wages are frozen. I'll curtail the journeys I make this year so I'll spend less than I would have done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    @59. PH73
    "52. Bedanuj
    Can we have another class of fare named "standing" and pay reduced fare?"
    I agree - I've long thought this would be a good way of increasing capacity and reducing costs in one go."

    Not sure where all these extra standing passengers would go on my train home each night - we're crammed in to the rafters already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    I earn reasonable money. but working in London costs me 18% of my take home pay just to travel. It's a massive con and it's about time people stood up to it. Every year we hear that the fare increase will be reinvested in improving the railway, and every year the service gets more overcrowded and unreliable. How can it be so badly run?

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Would an insider blow a whistle and tell you there is profligate waste in procurement with expensive suppliers being chosen over cheap ones (where safety is not critical) for any excuse? Would an insider say that NR behaves like a den of lawyers trying to change a lightbulb? Of course not.. Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs, the universal truth suppressor) put the kibosh on that..

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Rail fares are an absolute disgrace.

    However, what is worse is that rail is massively subsidised. It is clearly a dreadful model. Yet we hear that the country's sole transportation strategy is a faster, eye-wateringly expensive railway - that only stops once.

    So I can travel 40 minutes to Brum train station to save 20 minutes on the train.


    Where do they get these geniuses?

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    yep, give us a break.. what i find annoying is the inconsistency - from london for an off peak retun to manchester its £74.20, to newcastle it is £207.50!!!! STANDARD CLASS OFF PEAK - OFF PEAK!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.


    "It's high time these rail users stopped whinging on about rail fares. They would be a lot higher if it were not for the tax payer subsidy.
    This is a major waste of my money subsidising a system I will never use makes me mad."


    Mad are you?! Wouldn't have thought it!

    PS. I don't think you're popular either!

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    The extortionate prices are simply the greed of the owners and European shareholders. In China you can you travel from Beijing to Xi'an (700 miles), for the equivalent of just £15. Communist revolution soon, it's inevitable, I think we all knew this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    As bad as things are, they were a lot worse before privatisation. I used to have to catch 3 different trains for a 20 minute journey of 6 stations, all on the same line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    The problem with comparing car and train is not the engine size, it is the difference between average costs and marginal costs. Most of us only think of the cost of petrol because many of the other costs (and they can be huge) have to be met whether we drive 1 mile a year or 10000. Perhaps a new model of car ownership is needed? [And perhaps John Lewis should go into running trains!]

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Sanity check on air vs rail prices - for travel London to Aberdeen today: Rail GBP136, Air GBP248. (Cheapest prices single trip in a very quick internet scan)

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Having used the rail network for work every day between 2007 and 2009. I can honestly say it was nothing short of atrocious. 3rd World standards for 1st Class prices. Cancellations with impunity (of a service paid for in advance!).

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Is it the result of the privatisation of the railways?
    Are we, the citizens of this country, not right to be concerned about the drive to privatise the NHS and our Education system?

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    "The Association of Train Operating Companies admitted it needed to tackle costs as well as improve services."

    Crikey. Things MUST be getting bad when that bunch of money-grubbers admits reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Is it sensible that it costs more to run a train 25miles from Gatwick to London than it does to fly a plane 700 miles from Gatwick to Barcelona?

    Is anyone in government brave enough to recognise that this cannot be right becuase years of basing fares on rail companies' costings have simply encouraged operators to perpetuate the problem?

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Oh I forgot to mention education - good for the rich, mediocre or rubbish for the poor.


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