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Most franchised TOCs see marked drop in Q2 complaints

Ten of 17 comparable franchised operators saw a marked decrease in passenger complaints during the second quarter of 2015-16, with Chiltern leading the way with nearly 36% fewer complaints, figures from the Office for Rail and Road (ORR) have shown.

Despite being the seventh most complained about operator, Chiltern has managed to lower its complaints (measured per 100,000 passenger journeys) to just 50.

South West Trains, c2c, CrossCountry, East Midlands Trains, Northern Rail and First TransPennine also recorded complaints percentage decreases between 18.8% and 32.1%, while Virgin Trains West Coast and Southeastern saw 7% less complaints.

Virgin Trains West Coast still topped the list of complaints per journey, with nearly 200 criticisms made. Its sister operator on the East Coast saw the second highest rate of all franchised operators at 147 complaints. This could, however, be partly attributed to the fact that longer distance operators tend to have a higher complaints rate.

When looking at the reasons behind complaints, however, the Virgin franchises saw some of the lowest rates of criticisms on punctuality and reliability, with on-board facilities accounting for most complaints instead.

The five lowest complaints rate were recorded by operators running predominantly commuter services in or around the capital, with TfL Rail at the very bottom with just three complaints per 100,000 journeys. This is the first quarter for which TfL Rail data is available, given that it only started operating during the first quarter of the year.

Before TfL Rail started operating, London Overground consistently reported the lowest amount of complaints. Although its rate of complaints increased by almost 60% in this quarter, this only represented a marginal increase to 4.4 criticisms per 100,000 journeys.

Arriva Trains Wales saw no percentage change in complaints rates since the same time last year.

Overall, franchised TOCs saw almost 8% less complaints compared to last year.

46 ORR

This was also the second quarter in a row in which the level of praise received by operators hit a new record high – at 6.7%, the proportion of compliments given was an increase of 1.4 percentage points on the previous year.

Within the non-franchised operators, Grand Central recorded a whopping 295 complaints rate, while Hull Trains followed at 112 complaints. If considered with the franchised TOCs, this would have accounted for the first and fourth highest rates respectively.

Once again, punctuality and reliability was the most common cause for complaints, account for almost 28% of them – a decrease of 4.3 percentage points compared to the same quarter last year.

This was most common within Grand Central and Chiltern, who received 65 and 59 complaints about their punctuality in quarter two respectively – but other operators, including Northern, CrossCountry, Arriva Trains Wales and London Midland, followed closely behind.

Differently from most other operators, the highest cause for complaints in c2c’s services was related to its smartcard system, accounting for 16% of all criticisms. The proportion of complaints related to smart ticketing initially rose during the third quarter of 2014-15, when the system was introduced, and has recorded rates between 11% and 19% ever since.

Overall, the UK rail network has seen a long-term downward trend in the complaints rate since the time series began in 2002-3. Some have attributed this to passengers taking to social media to complain about operators rather than using traditional methods.

Some operators, however, still largely rely on letters and emailing for complaints – particularly Chiltern, which led the way at 66% of complaints made in writing.

(Top image c. Johnny Green/PA Images)


No2abellio   20/12/2015 at 22:23

Shame, no mention of Abellio's horrendous increase?

RTM   21/12/2015 at 08:48

Hello, We didn't include it because the Greater Anglia data is not directly comparable to figures from last year. Here's what the ORR said about it: "Greater Anglia had the largest percentage increase in complaints compared to 2014-15 Q2. However, the data for Greater Anglia are not directly comparable due to the transfer of some services to London Overground and TfL Rail during 2015-16 Q1. The services retained by Greater Anglia are mostly the longer distance, noncommuter ones which are those that tend to have a higher complaints rate." Hope that helps!

Ian   04/01/2016 at 15:14

However, the week this was published (14/12 - 18/12) C2C received thousands of tweet complaints everyday due to the (customer predicted) complete failure of the new timetable the introduced. So much so, they now have to have a public meeting.

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