UK

Rail passenger satisfaction in first rise since 2012

Train Image copyright PA
Image caption Satisfaction was lowest among customers of train operators serving south-east England

The proportion of people satisfied with their rail journey in Britain has risen for the first time since 2012, a survey of passengers has said.

The bi-annual National Rail Passenger Survey, which asks more than 28,000 people, recorded a 2% year-on-year rise in overall satisfaction to 83%.

The research was carried out between 1 September and 12 November 2015.

Watchdog Transport Focus said railway improvements were "very welcome" but performance was "still patchy".

More investment

Rail Minister Claire Perry said overall satisfaction - which is at its highest level since autumn 2012 (85%) - was "a welcome sign that our record investment is starting to deliver results".

"There is clearly much more to be done, which is why we are continuing to invest to reduce crowding, cut journey times, and improve the passenger experience," she said.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Operators with the three lowest ratings all covered south-east England. Thameslink had the lowest proportion of satisfied passengers at 73%, followed by Southeastern (75%) and Southern (78%)
  • All three operators have been affected by long-running improvement work at London Bridge station, which has caused disruption
  • Operators with the highest proportion of satisfied customers were First Hull Trains (97%) and Heathrow Express (95%)
  • The proportion of people satisfied that their ticket represented value for money was 48%
  • Passengers using the non-stop Gatwick Express between London Victoria and Gatwick Airport were least likely to be satisfied with their fare (37%)
  • The figure for those happy with the punctuality and reliability of their train increased edged up by one percentage point to 78%
  • Nationally, the percentage of passengers satisfied with all train and station facilities improved for 20 service areas and declined for none.

Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said there was "more to do to keep improving".

"Our railway is benefiting from one of the biggest investment programmes in its history - major improvement work that is producing better stations, better trains and better journeys," she said.

Analysis

By Louise Stewart, BBC South East political editor

The headline is positive enough - rail passenger satisfaction in Britain has risen for the first time since 2012, according to a customer survey.

But many commuters will be surprised by that - particularly in London and south-east England.

They've suffered endless delays and cancellations due to the ongoing upgrading work at London Bridge.

The problems have been so bad that MPs have repeatedly raised them in parliament in recent months.

At the start of January - just after commuters saw the price of their annual season ticket increase again - MPs branded Southern's service "a joke" and called for the Southern franchise to be withdrawn.

There is also a petition calling for South Eastern to lose its franchise.

The rail companies blame increased demand and the improvement works but commuters who have no option but to take the train are feeling the strain.

They believe only changes of franchise will get services back on track.

The survey was carried out by independent transport user watchdog Transport Focus, whose chief executive Anthony Smith said: "Punctuality and crowding drive passenger views of the railway."

He also said the value for money scores showed wide variation around the country.

"Passengers rightly expect the train companies and Network Rail to keep to their basic promises with most trains on time, the right length and with few cancellations," he said.

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