Rail satisfaction varies too much, Passenger Focus warns

King's Cross Station Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Punctuality was said to be a key factor in the survey findings

Satisfaction with rail services still varies too widely across Britain, the Passenger Focus watchdog has said.

Its poll of 30,000 people found overall happiness on 74% for Northern Rail's Lancashire to Cumbria route, but 98% on Grand Central's London-Bradford trains.

The Bradford service scored 82% in the value for money category, compared with 28% for the Stansted Express.

Industry body the Rail Delivery Group said average satisfaction remained at record highs but it was not complacent.

The National Rail Passenger Survey, published twice a year, was conducted between September and November last year; people were asked for their opinion on the journey they were taking on that day. It found overall satisfaction with rail services was 83%, down from 85% a year before.

"Although generally satisfaction has remained fairly high over the last five years, we want to see a more consistently high level of service for passengers, wherever they may be travelling to and from," said David Sidebottom, acting chief executive of Passenger Focus.

He said a key factor in the survey findings was punctuality, which had barely changed in the last five years.

Overall satisfaction in this category dropped since the previous year from 83% to 79%.

Services rated as having low satisfaction for reliability and punctuality included London Midland's West Coast service with a 60% rating and First Capital Connect's Thameslink loop on 67%.

The highest-rated routes in this category were South West Trains' Island Line on the Isle of Wight and Merseyrail's Wirral route, both on 98%, followed by Virgin's London to Liverpool service on 97%.

'New targets'

Passenger Focus said satisfaction with how train operators handled delays also varied too widely, with its findings revealing that only 23% of people were happy with Northern Rail's South and East Yorkshire route, compared with 69% for East Coast's route from London to Scotland.

Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group industry body, said: "Even though overall passenger satisfaction remains at a near record high, these latest results are a sober reminder that the industry can never be complacent on the issues that matter to passengers.

"All parts of the rail industry are stepping up efforts to reduce delays and improve how we communicate with passengers, particularly during disruption. We will continue to listen to and act on what passengers tell us is important."

Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said he shared passengers' concerns over punctuality.

He added: "We are investing more than £38bn to maintain and improve our railways, and the industry must make sure that investment translates into improvements on the ground.

"I also recognise there are areas where satisfaction is low, such as fares. That is why we have reduced the average regulated fare rise."

Anna Walker, from the Office of Rail Regulation, said: "To see satisfaction dip to 83% partly due to declining punctuality and reliability of services is disheartening, and reinforces our decision to bring in tough new punctuality targets for the railways."

The survey was published as the Citizens Advice charity said the number of people seeking advice about trains has trebled, from 14,138 in 2012 to 43,282 last year, with most inquiries being about getting compensation or making a complaint.

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