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 107.

    The current fastest route on land public transport takes a timetabled 22 hours 45 minutes, departing Land's End car park at 14:35 on day 1 and arriving at John o' Groats ferry terminal car park at 13:20 on day 2.
    costs over £220

    M. Clark and G. Beynon are the last hitchhikers recorded in the Guinness Book of Records for the Land's End to John O'Groats trip (17 hours 8 minutes).
    Costs. FREE!

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    My fare to London from the South Coast costs me about £20 per day. £20 wouldn't even cover the cost of the fuel for that journey by car, let alone parking. It's a bargain. I always get a seat, it's a long commute but my time is my own on the train, I can read, do a little work on the computer, sleep, whatever I want. Minimal stress compared with being behind the wheel in rush hour too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    The services the rail network provides in this country does not justify a penny increase. The trains are forever overcrowded, dirty and late. Talk about punctuality! NXEA is one of the worst! It holds the monopoly over dirty trains. I can’t help but wonder what passenger fares are used for. Bonuses for the rail chiefs?
    Welcome to RIP OFF BRITAIN!

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    All of us are prisoners of history. The damage was done when Beeching 'destroyed' the rail network and Britain started its love affair with the car. This led to lack of investment in the then monolithic nationalised rail network to such an extent that no amount of public money was going to fix it. We are now paying the price of past policy decisions, and right now the country is broke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    I have been living in Germany for the past 36 years. No the rail system is not all that much better but cheaper & certainly faster.

    Everytime I visit my old home town (Come on the Seagulls!!) I am astounded at the constantly increasing cost of having to use a pitiful, dirty, unpunctual service.

    To all you punters that have to suffer, STRIKE. Do not use the trains for a couple of days. Try that!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    This is the inevitable - and widely predicted - result of the demented Major/Tory privatisation. no coherent network, massively increased subsidies, vastly increased fares, smaller & less frequent trains, worse safety, worse reliability, slowed down reopening of valuable stations.

    But - the reason it was inflicted on you - huge profits for the lucky party donor companies.

    Trebles all round!

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Must understand, subsidising is not to reduce the cost to the workers - it's the privatisation of public funds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    The money gained from raised rail fares by passenger carriers unfortunately does not go towards improving the rail network, tracks, signals, points etc. It does, however, line the train operating companies' share holders' pockets and to hell with the state of the railway tracks etc. Only so much can be done to improve unfortunately, especially when shareholder greed takes over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    The TOCs claim passenger numbers increase but fares go up every year more than incomes and they still give the same poor service. If more people are paying, the average price for the same service should decrease. TOCs also use unregulated parking charges (usually imposed via daylight robbers NCP) to skin commuters - an integrated transport system would have lowest parking charges for commuters!

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Still look on the bright side, these rail companies are making loads of money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    It is a complete mockery that, for most journeys, a train (which are unreliable, inconvienient, and messy) are now more expensive than taking a car.

    People would put up with all the unreliablility, inconvience, and mess if it was cheaper!

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Just now


    Nationalise the railways."

    Lest we forget, Network Rail is already state-owned, as is the East Coast TOC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    I don't think I'd resent the costs as much if the trains weren't overcrowded (i.e I could get a seat or at least stand in comfort) and they actually ran on time.

    It's just wrong to pay so much for such a poor service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Surveys are meaningless when the commuter's lot is overcrowding, no seats, regular disruptions and over-inflated price rises, and no improvements in sight despite claims of govts and train ops.
    Contrary to belief here though, commuter trains in Europe are also crowded - I lived in Austria for many years. The diff is cost - 40+% lower compared like-for-like, and a reliable/punctual service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    We should not object to the tax payer subsidising the railways. The tax payer also subsidises the roads and oil industry. It would be interesting to see a comparison by how much and consider which is the most damaging to environment and health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.


    Nationalise the railways.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    @61: I think that those people who think it cheaper to drive than go by car must own Fiat 500s or something else with a lawnmower engine!

    I just out of interest checked what it would cost me to buy a ticket from Plymouth to Manchester for a family of four return for a random weekend in March

    the Train fare was £420, the car hire for a golf was £70. you do the maths.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    The biggest problem I have found with the railways is the passengers. They all want to travel at the same time and expect to get a seat. They are too unreasonable to realise that the TOCs have large numbers of rolling stock which are virtually empty for most of the day. Passengers also expect trains to take them where and when they want and they won't plan their lives to fit in with rail needs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    How do people do this every day? it was soul destroying going to London yesterday. A struggle to get through the door and standing with 20 other people. H&S on public transport is completely overlooked. I dozed off for an hour on the return journey and found that we were only in Shenfield (5-10 minutes from LivSt). The ticket was over £50. Delighted to be back behind the wheel this morning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    63.England is Ruined

    It depends what sort of society we want. One in which companies make a reasonable profit and provide a service that most people can afford or one which sees companies raising prices to simply maximise profit and reduce crowding. What other industry actively raises the cost to the user to reduce consumption?


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