England

Strike-hit Southern ranks worst for customer satisfaction

Passengers waiting for a train during a strike Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Nearly half of the Southern passengers surveyed said their most recent journey was delayed

Strike-hit Southern rail has ranked lowest in a UK-wide survey of customer satisfaction.

The figures, compiled by consumer organisation Which?, showed nearly half of Southern's passengers said their last journey was delayed.

The rail operator has seen months of strikes in a long-running dispute with two unions, the RMT and Aslef, over the roles of guards on trains.

Parent company Govia Thameslink (GTR) said the firm was "sincerely sorry".

In the annual survey of all UK train firms, Southern scored 21% and received one star for punctuality, reliability, seat availability, frequency and value for money - 46% of passengers said their most recent journey was delayed.

Southeastern was the second-worst performer with a rating of 31%, including one star for seat availability - the rail firm said it valued all feedback, understood passengers' concerns about seats, and was committed to improving services.

Thameslink and Great Northern, whose parent company is also GTR, scored 32%, with one star for frequency and condition of carriages.

Merseyrail came top with 72%, followed by Virgin Trains West Coast with 69% and East Midlands Trains with 67%.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption More strike days are planned this month by both unions

Researchers surveyed 2,218 commuters and Southern's results were based on the views of 256 passengers.

Which? campaigns director Vickie Sheriff said: "After months of disruption, it's no surprise to see Southern at the bottom.

"Though Southern have performed particularly badly this year, the whole sector is continually failing passengers.

"Overcrowding, delays, short trains, carriages in poor condition - many services aren't providing even the basics.

"Enough is enough. We need rail services that finally deliver."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Campaigners have protested over the ongoing disruption

The GTR spokesman said: "Our passengers deserve better and together with Network Rail and its £300m funding package to improve track signalling and overall performance, we're working hard to improve the service."

He said the survey reflected the "wholly unjustified" industrial action being taken by Aslef and the RMT, knock-on delays from the redevelopment of London Bridge station, and performance issues on Great Northern caused by weather, signal failures and ageing trains.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the report showed Southern was the "worst of a bad bunch".

He said: "The responsibility for the catastrophic mismanagement of this crucial rail operation lies fairly and squarely with the government and their contractors GTR."

The next strike action by Aslef, which represents train drivers, is planned for 24, 25 and 27 January.

The RMT, which represents conductors and also 12 drivers, has been involved in industrial action since last April and has announced a 24-hour strike for 23 January.

'Danger of dispute'

The union has also given a deadline for assurances over Merseyrail's plans for driver-only-operated trains.

Jan Chaudhry Van der Velde, managing director of Merseyrail, said: "We are lucky here in Merseyrail that we have one of the top performing train companies in the country.

"The foundations of that I think are because of our local, special and close relationship with the authority and with Merseytravel, who run the concession, so it's a devolved franchise agreement not run from London.

"There's the danger that a protracted dispute with the unions could put some of those things at risk. We are determined to do everything we can to prevent that."

RMT is seeking assurances that guards will be retained as part of Merseyrail's plans to introduce a new fleet of 52 driver-only-operated trains from 2020.

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