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 127.

    Maybe it is the governments opinion that it is good for the economy to force people in to cars. Rather than to have a cheaper public transport alternative.
    There is no real answer other than nationalization or create real competition and have multiple train companies using each line within reasonable intervals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Interesting to see how many comments there are from people complaining that they travel on trains and don't get a seat when they think they are entitled to one.

    If you read the National Rail Conditions of Carriage which you contractually agree to when you purchase your ticket the train operating companies don't have to guarantee you a seat unless you have a seat reservation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    I think rail fares are a BARGAIN! I regularly travel the 150 miles from London to the West Country, and using advance tickets I get astonishingly low prices. People who think rail fares are high are probably buying singles, on the day. Sure, occasionally I have to throw away an advance ticket as my plans change, but even so, over the year, I get fantastic value for money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Its £166 from brum to london to arrive by about 10am on Virgin these days. That's about 3x the fuel cost to drive the same journey.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    I live about a 50 minute drive from work, it easily takes over and hour and a half to do by train. There are 2 operators along the way, First Great Western and Arriva Trains Wales. For some reason, the Arriva trains have fewer carriages, yet stop at more stations, which makes no sense. Even the larger First Great Western trains sometimes too full at times.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    If they are so concerned about getting people out of their cars, then public transport should be cheap and convenient to use. The only way that will happen is if its nationalised and subsidised. It should just be accepted that its going to be a good chunk of government expenditure. It also bothers me we have all these damn lorries driving around when most of it should be on the railways

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Only one reason for the high fares - and that is most who use rail feel that they have to use it. This makes it easy for the rail operator to leverage fares and is obviously abusive of passengers & their rights to pay fair fares.

    This is exploitation of those who have to use a particular service & rail fares need to be reviewed urgently & be set by an independent body.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    The BBC the headline does not tell the real stroy- that a remarkable 84% are satisfied with their journey. Of course, in hard times, a majority want to pay less- but I'm old enough to remember ghastly British Rail- a tale old old and dirty carriages, poor food, delays and strikes. Today things are infinitely better: the biggest problemv now is the time, and hence cost, of building things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    First Conservatives wanted social mobility then they sold off a cheap form of transport to their greedy friends and now there is a lack of available jobs and the rail fares are extortionate. So, They want you to pay more to get too work if you are lucky to have a job and at the same time want you to take a pay decrease. How to reduce the surplus population, Vote Conservative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    There is ONLY one way to sum this up and that is RIP OFF BRITAIN and these are the tops

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    If you unhappy with the service then why bother keep on using it?

    Stop moaning and take action. Talk to the people sitting in your carriage (yes I know it is difficult to speak to strangers but needs must) and form small travel co-operatives and share cars, hire mini-buses etc. to reduce your travel costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    @103. While it would be nice to boycott train use to show disappointment at the service doing it for a couple of days would achieve nothing. Most commuters like myself are tied into yearly railcards so it's all paid for upfront and the rail companies would not lose out if i didn't go by train for a few days

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    "112. Charlie1902
    Surveys like these are a joke - I often get handed a questionnaire about whether I am satisfied - only they take it back if the train is late or cancelled.
    Next month I do my CBT test another customer lost (and another free seat for some other schmuck)"

    You get a seat? Wow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    @ 94. Allan Clarke,

    here in Germany the cost are well quite high. There is though the possibility of travelling a lot cheaper when you book at least 3 days in advance. They also have a RailCard scheme where you can save 25% or 50%. I pay €29 to get to Berlin from where I live a distance of just over 300km´s & that in just over 2.5 hours.
    Take note you incompetent operaters. Shameful I say!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    I had planned a trip to London by train, at £129 return plus hotels not in my budget..why can I fly to Spain for £58 return and cant afford a train journey...????

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Surveys like these are a joke - I often get handed a questionnaire about whether I am satisfied - only they take it back if the train is late or cancelled.
    Next month I do my CBT test another customer lost (and another free seat for some other schmuck)

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    In regard to commuters rail fares. Its ridiculous that they assume everybody that commutes is rich because they live in the country. I would love to see the conflict if all these 'rich' commuters move into the city and push everybody further out - maybe then the prices would drop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Commuters, I have found, are a pretty unreasonable lot. According to the AA it would cost £6.40 to commute in a car instead of a £4.20 rail journey. The rail journey is very much quicker and has less damage on the environment. The only problem with the rail journey is having to listen to the constant moans about minor situations which have befallen my ungrateful fellow travellers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    The railways were not "privatised", but a whole series of regional mini-monopolies were created. All (with the honourable exception of Chiltern) designed with large gilded troughs for the directors of these "privatised" companies as their main focus.

    We pour money into the troughs of these gravy-train operations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    #21 Chris Neville-Smith in reply to #7 MervinMuffley
    No, those are the normal walk-up fares before faffing about with restrictions, discounts etc.
    In the 1st fortnight since the fare increases - for improved reliability- 2 out of 18 journeys were on time 16 were late if they ran at all. Privatise profits, nationalise costs, then bleed the customer as well - what a grand business model!


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