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Better value rail fares top priority for passengers

Better value for money train tickets is the number one improvement priority for passengers across the UK, according to a new study. 

The Passenger Focus report – Rail Passengers’ priorities for improvements – also identified that getting a seat on trains, at more frequent and punctual times, is high up on the wish list for commuters. 

David Sidebottom, director at the independent watchdog, said: “Value for money is passengers’ number one priority. This is closely linked to the core provision of a good train service – more trains that run on time and delays that are dealt with effectively when they happen. 

“The rail industry needs to continue focusing its efforts on delivering these core improvements that passengers really want whether in franchise renewals or investment programmes.” 

Key findings include that passengers in the north of England are prioritising improvements in being able to get a seat on the train almost as highly as better value for money tickets. 

Stephen Joseph OBE, chief executive at the Campaign for Better Transport, told RTM: “These findings underline two campaigns we’ve been running recently. One long-term campaign on rail fares where we’ve argued that people need to see better value money fares, and that the industry needs to offer more transparent fares. There should also be a greater move, in general, towards smart ticketing – which many passengers like. 

“The other highlight of the report, which is exemplified by the Right Track North campaign, is that passengers in the north want to get a seat on the train. 

“And this is at the heart of the current debate about the future Northern and TransPennine Express franchises. Local authorities, passenger groups, chambers of commerce and others in the north are saying that they want a franchise base on investment to improve services and to tackle overcrowding. Unfortunately, government, so far, has tended to resist this.” 

The top five priorities in the report were broadly the same in England, Scotland and Wales. However, passengers in England gave a higher priority (4th) to punctuality than those in Scotland and Wales (5th) who wanted their train company to keep them better informed when services are delayed as 4th.  

Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, said the findings were hardly surprising when walk-on ticket fares on the most popular lines have risen by “up to 245% since the Tories sold off our railways 20 years ago”. 

“We are now paying the highest fares in Europe despite taxpayers' subsidies of over £4bn a year to a railway system which is a third less efficient than our publicly-owned European rivals,” he added. 

Responding to the report, Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, representing operators and Network Rail, said that passengers are at the heart of “what we do” which is why the rail industry always listens carefully to their feedback. 

He stated: “While overall passenger satisfaction remains near a record high, we know that we need to keep on improving, driving up the quality of services to respond to customers’ needs and the growing demand for rail travel.” 

More than 3,500 passengers took part in the study. And the vast majority of respondents also wanted to see improvements made at stations with regards to seating, toilets, bins, platform shelters and waiting rooms. 

Rail minister Claire Perry said: “As part of our long-term economic plan, more than £38bn is being invested to build a better railway that provides more trains, more seats and more services for passengers, reversing decades of under-investment in the network. 

“We recognise the concerns passenger have about fares. This is why the chancellor announced the extension of the average regulated fare freeze of RPI+0% into 2015. I also understand the frustration of rail passengers forced to stand on busy services and that is why I am calling on train operators to do more.” 

The Passenger Focus research found that the top 10 priorities for improvement across Great Britain are: 

  1. Price of train tickets offers better value for money
  2. Passengers always able to get a seat on the train
  3. Trains sufficiently frequent at the times I wish to travel
  4. More trains arrive on time than happens now
  5. Train company keeps passengers informed about delays
  6. Less frequent major unplanned disruptions to your journey
  7. Fewer trains cancelled than happens now
  8. Accurate and timely information available at stations
  9. Journey time is reduced
  10. Free wi-fi available on the train 

To read the full report, click here

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