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Commuters slam ‘shoddy’ service as passenger satisfaction dips to 81%

The latest National Transport Passenger Survey has revealed that passengers’ faith in the railway has been knocked as satisfaction took a sharp dip after a year of industrial action and prolonged poor performance.

The Transport Focus survey, which measured the satisfaction of more than 29,000 passengers between September and November 2016, revealed that only 81% of passengers were satisfied with their journey, marking a “significant” decline from the 83% rate in autumn 2015. However, it was marginally higher than the 80% who were satisfied with their journey in spring last year.

A drop in satisfaction is particularly clear in areas hardest hit by disruption such as Scotland and the south east, with Southern receiving the lowest overall satisfaction rating of all TOCs with 65%.

Comparing the overall satisfaction rates for each TOC with autumn 2015 results, no operator significantly improved, while three – Great Northern, ScotRail and Southern – significantly declined.

Watchdog CEO Anthony Smith, who wrote for the latest edition of RTM on the importance of fair passenger compensation, branded the results around the country “disappointing”, adding: “Scottish passengers and those travelling in peak hours in London and the south east are bearing the brunt of poor performance.

“The timetable on parts of the London and south east’s railway can be a work of fiction which passengers cannot rely on. As passenger numbers rise, parts of the rail network will remain brittle until welcome improvements are in place and working.”

The survey also found national satisfaction with punctuality and reliability to be particularly low, with a drop of five percentage points to 73% – making punctuality the factor showing the largest decline. A paltry 30% of Southern’s passengers were satisfied with the TOC’s punctuality.

Value for money is also a perpetual concern for passengers, as the proportion of commuters satisfied with the value of their ticket fell to 47%, one percentage point below the previous year.

Despite this, the survey was not universally negative. Transport Focus found increased satisfaction in four service areas, with station facilities and services seeing a two percentage point rise. On the other hand, nine services areas saw a drop in satisfaction.

Hull Trains was the TOC with the highest amount for passenger satisfaction at 97%, followed by Heathrow Express (96%) and Merseyrail (95%) – the latter echoing its excellent performance in Which’s annual survey published last week.

Southern’s owner, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), issued an apology for the TOC’s terrible showing, while Transport Focus advised it to collaborate with Network Rail to create a more robust timetable.

“Our service hasn’t been good enough and I am truly sorry,” said Angie Doll, GTR’spassenger services director. “The unprecedented industrial action has given our Southern and Gatwick Express passengers a reduced timetable, delays and cancellations which have made their lives a misery and affected the regional economy.”

But GTR added that Network Rail’s current £300m funding package in upgrading key sections of the Southern network will help to improve reliability on the network.

Members from the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT), however, said that the survey confirmed that passengers are “paying through the nose for a shoddy service”.

“There is no point spending billions on increasing capacity whilst ignoring smaller scale investment in reliable infrastructure,” said Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner for CBT. “We want to see more line-based infrastructure funding and a ‘fix it first’ approach to rail investment to help tackle the woeful level of service many passengers have to put up with.”

CBT hinted that the government should follow London Underground’s example in improving services and support TfL’s bid to run the capital’s suburban rail network, an idea which the transport secretary Chris Grayling has currently put on hold.

Jacqueline Starr, Rail Delivery Group managing director of customer experience, representing train operators and Network Rail, said: “We know we must do better. We’re sorry when customers don’t get the service they expect, including those affected by strikes. Everyone in the railway is working hard to make train journeys better from start to finish.”

(Image: c. Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

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Gabriel Oaks   24/01/2017 at 14:03

When I started travelling by rail to London the rush-hour services included comfy seats and a dining car. In time this new trains saw this downgraded to a buffet car. With the current generation of trains seating comfort disappeared with just a tea-trolley on the train. When the franchise became a DfT management contract the tea-trollies were withdrawn on the +2hr journey. Ignoring strike action reliability has fallen significantly. 81% satisfaction looks to be pretty high.......

Iain   24/01/2017 at 20:36

Oh do change the record Angie and your GTR cronies, it is astonishing that the satisfaction scores for Southern only fell a couple of points given the previous NPS results covered the period BEFORE any industrial action, in other words the bulk of the problems lie with you and Charlie.

Noam   25/01/2017 at 10:12

Southern has been unable to provide a meaningful service for months, yet still score a satisfaction rating of 65% - that was a 2.ii when I went to university. 65% sounds high to me, and suggests the methodology is unduly favourable.

John   27/01/2017 at 08:30

Well said Iain. The problems with Southern started long before the RMT and ASLEF added to the misery. And Thameslink is not much better. Both are presided over by GTR, and there lies the real problem. Temporary shortage of train crew was the usual excuse back then. Today it was 'mishap'!

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