Customers rate Southeastern & Thameslink as ‘worst’ train companies
Southeastern and Thameslink have been ranked as the worst performing train companies for passenger satisfaction, according to new research.
The fifth annual rail satisfaction survey from consumer organisation Which? Also found that 32% of the nearly 7,000 passengers surveyed experienced delays on their last journey, with the worst companies for delays being Arriva Trains Wales, Thameslink and Great Northern, Great Western Railways and Southern.
Overall, Which? asked passengers to score train lines on eight criteria: availability of seating, availability and cleanliness of toilets, cleanliness of carriages, overall condition of train, reliability, frequency, punctuality and value for money. The lowest-rated operators were Southeastern (46%), Thameslink and Great Northern (46%) and Abellio Greater Anglia (47%). The highest ranked were Grand Central (79%), Hull Trains (73%) and Merseyrail (70%).
Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: “Our report shows that commuters are getting a raw deal from their train operator. Whether its dirty facilities on the train, overcrowding or delayed trains, it is clear operators need to up their game.
“Rail operators need to do much more to treat their customers fairly, providing better information and access to compensation when passengers are delayed. Passengers want to see action taken to make rail delay refunds easier and we have asked the regulator to investigate using our super-complaint powers.”
A Southeastern spokesman said: “While the Which? report questioned fewer passengers than the recent National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) – which shows our overall customer satisfaction rate at 75% - both clearly indicate we have much more to do.
“We’re part way through a £70m investment programme, refurbishing our trains and stations, providing more front line employees for passengers, improving customer service training and providing more real time information during journeys.
“The NRPS survey showed passengers have noticed, as satisfaction in these areas has risen, but punctuality is the key driver of satisfaction for most. Along with Network Rail who look after railway infrastructure such as track and signalling, we’re working hard to improve punctuality and minimise delays.
“In regards to compensation, we actively promote the Delay Repay scheme online, by social media such as Twitter, in media announcements and on station posters. This pays compensation to anyone whose journey was delayed by 30 minutes or more. This is set as part of our franchise agreement with the Department for Transport.”
The Which? survey results are similar to last year’s, although Abellio Greater Anglia replaced Southern in the bottom three.
However Go-Ahead Group, the owner of Thameslink & Great Northern, Southern and Southeastern, experienced a £200m jump in profit in the past year despite the consistent criticism.
Virgin Trains, which recently won the service innovation award at the UK Rail Industry Awards 2016 for their automatic delay repay scheme, were the highest-ranked long distance operator. It achieved scores of 69% for Virgin Trains West Coast and 61% for Virgin Trains East Coast.
Patrick McCall, co-chairman of Virgin Trains, said: “We'll continue to build on these results with all the exciting initiatives we have this year. We have pioneered Automatic Delay Repay on the West Coast and we are rolling out a £40 million revamp of our trains on the East Coast as well as introducing additional services between Edinburgh and London."
Make Rail Refunds Easier
Back in December, Which? made a super-complaint to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) calling for an investigation into rail delay refunds as part of its Make Rail Refunds Easier campaign, which was launched after the organisation’s research found that one-third of passengers eligible for compensation make a claim.
Which? is now supporting the campaign by presenting a dossier of passenger case studies to the ORR and appearing at London Liverpool Street, London Paddington, Brighton, Harlow and St Albans stations this week with MPs.
This week ORR crossed the halfway mark in assessing the super-complaint.
Stephanie Tobyn, ORR’s deputy director for consumers, said: “As well as considering the helpful research Which? submitted when it lodged its super-complaint, we are forming an unbiased and independent view on the issues raised on the experiences of rail passengers claiming compensation.”
She said a team from regulatory disciplines including competition, consumer law and train licencing are looking at the issue on ORR’s behalf and have met with representatives from more than 20 train operating companies and collecting information on passenger experience.
“ORR is interested in what is really going on at train stations across the country; what kind of information is available to passengers, how easy do they find it to make a claim for compensation, and what potentially stands in their way”, she added.
The ORR will respond to the complaint on 18 March, with actions which could include recommending that the quality and accessibility of information for consumers is improved, encouraging businesses in the market to self-regulate and promote good practice, making recommendations to government to change the legislation or public policy, taking competition or consumer enforcement action or giving a clean bill of health.
(Image c. Hrachik)