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."

'Sorry'

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
    -5

    Comment number 227.

    An overcrowded train is an underpriced train. It's basic economics. Rail travel is the most popular it's been for decades. How could that be, if it was too expensive?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 226.

    . . . I love this idea of buying advance tickets cheaply . . . I think I will ask Mr Tesco or Morrison if I can buy my groceries the same way. This is bullshine. There should be only 2 fares; peak and off peak, and these terms should be redefined to cover only one hour either side of rush hour.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 225.

    #223 Neil Stapeley - so how do you explain that our railways are not only still subsidised, but subsidised at twice the amount per train run compared in real terms with what BR got? Pumping subsidies in at one end while dividends are siphoned off at the other is madness.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 224.

    Only way for train fares to go down is by us to stop using the trains. Then train companies will see their revenues and profits fall as their passenger numbers fall and then they will realise they need to reduce their prices to stop their revenues and profits falling.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 223.

    218.BootRap

    In Europe the rail companies are state owned and recieve heavy state subsidies.

    Look at the state of the European finances.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 222.

    I commutted from 1976 to 1996 Rail. The service declined drastically as privitisation took effect and costs soared. I still use the railways for leisure travel and wait, not holding my breath, for some sign of improvment or price cutting due to privitisation. Fares are a ripoff and standing far too common. I normally catch stopping trains to get a seat these days!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 221.

    Don't know how people can say BR was worse. I grew up in the 60's and 70's too, and I remember British Rail as being a far cheaper and more convenient way to travel by train than it is now. Even in the mid-eighties, an anytime return from Wolverhampton to London was only £12.00. Today the same ticket will cost £166.00!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 220.

    "We need to increase fares so that we can improve the network", shouldn't that read "so that YOU the cattle can improve the network", and of course it will mean increased income which in turn means the fatcat bosses can have bigger bonuses.....£30 return to fly from Stansted to Karlsruhe, cheapest train from Bradford to Stansted £80.40, come on PR man justify it.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 219.

    London-Paris return for two adults: £138
    Bath-Truro return for two adults: £111 (saving £24!)

    Unhappy with train fares in this country? What do you think?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 218.

    In Europe I can go fom one country to another for about £30. You also get a nice lady in each carriage who looks after your needs and as much free tea as you can drink. That price here will roughly get me from London to Stevenage. As usual, rip off Britain.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 217.

    ATOC is doing its usual whitewashing today. First Group made £55.7 million profit from its rail franchises in just 6 months last year, while National Express rail made £27.1 million. Despite this, taxpayer subsidy to the railways is now twice the amount per train run (in real terms) that BR got, and fares are verifiably the highest in Europe. Why???

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 216.

    It seems that the same people who complain about the rail fares are the same people who complain about goverment spending. You can have it both ways. These are private companies who have to make a profit. The goverment are reducint the subsidies and passengers are demanding better trains where else is the profit going to come from.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 215.

    Reading the comments on here, it seems that we've got a lousy rail service and always have, whether it was state run or private. I guess that matches the bigger picture of us as a country. Can't run the rails, can't run the nation.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 214.

    I regularly have to travel between Glasgow and London for professional and family purposes. The cheapest train fare as of today is £120, standard class, for a journey 8 weeks hence. First class is approaching £300.

    The cheapest return flight? £61. I'd love to cut down my carbon footprint but considering these prices, it ceases to be a priority.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 213.

    Can I just point out that the survey was extremely limited. I completed it and was only asked to give my opinion for the journey I was about to make. As we arrived on time I had to say satisfied. If they'd surveyed us the day before I would have said extremely dissatisfied because of delays. How can they call themselves Passenger Focus if they don’t give us the chance to voice our real opinions?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 212.

    Sue Doughcoup #205: "I don't see TOC execs leaving half-full coffee cups or half eaten take-aways on the trains.". That's because I doubt very much they use the trains themselves. It's a bit like the architects who designed brutish concrete tower blocks for people to live in: they all lived in nice elegant Georgian houses. Hypocrisy by any other name.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 211.

    Rail UK is wasting too much on dumb and unnecessessary nonsence and not paying enough attention to vital needs

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 210.

    Growing feeling? Haha!

    It's a farce of outstanding proportions. Not just the cost, but the complexity of actually purchasing a ticket is absurd.

    That said, try dealing with London Underground! Not only do they charge you through the nose so that people employed soley for the purpose of reading aloud off electronic information boards can have a job, but you're held to ransom by Bob Crow!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 209.

    Now that they know it, what are they going to do about it?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 208.

    Yes the "Advance" tickets are very good value - but I doubt most train passengers have any option of using those. Most are stuck with the very expensive "buy on the day" or season tickets. As for competition - an utter joke. Again most passengers only have one choice, the expensive trains on offer where they are (almost always from only one TOC), or drive......

 

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