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Poor performance in south leads to dip in passenger satisfaction

Rail passenger satisfaction levels have dropped due to poor performance, with London and south-east England travellers least happy with their service, new research has revealed. 

Overall passenger satisfaction stands at 80%, down from 82% in spring 2014, according to Transport Focus’s survey of more than 31,000 passengers. 

The spring 2015 National Rail Passenger Survey shows that satisfaction with punctuality is down to 75% (from 77% in 2014) – this figure drops to 65% for commuters. 

Overall satisfaction by TOC varied between 72% and 96%. The lowest ratings were given to Southern (72%), Govia Thameslink Railway (74 %), Abellio Greater Anglia (75%), Southeastern (75%) and Northern Rail (79%). 

950 Table

A Southern spokesman told RTM: “This round of the National Passenger Survey was conducted at a time when our performance was going through the most difficult period we've experienced since the surveys began, when the number of tracks into London Bridge was reduced as part of the Thameslink Programme. 

“The new infrastructure proved unable to cope with the amount of trains, leading to sustained delays across the network. This, together with several major incidents – including one evening peak where we lost both London Bridge and London Victoria stations – resulted in a difficult time for passengers. 

“The Office of Rail and Road has criticised Network Rail for Southern’s poor punctuality and reliability on our busy network. We are working with Network Rail to deliver a joint improvement plan that is focused on improvements to its infrastructure while at the same time creating a more robust timetable.” 

Following months of disruption in the south east, Transport Focus is part of a taskforce to help tackle it. Set up by rail minister Claire Perry, the group will focus on immediate improvements for long-suffering passengers in this region. 

Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: “Commuters will not be surprised at these results. Long-term plans and investment are important and welcome – how the work is carried out, though, is crucial. 

“The London Bridge rebuilding scheme in particular has caused problems. We’re now working with train companies and Network Rail to try and minimise the impact on commuters.” 

A spokesperson for Govia Thameslink Railway, which operates Thameslink and Great Northern, added that passengers are rightly dissatisfied when their trains are running late and this survey was carried out when we were experiencing the very worst of delays on Thameslink. 

“A burst water main had flooded our rail tunnel in central London cancelling over 1,000 trains and causing a week’s worth of delays on top of which there were regular hold-ups as a result of the London Bridge station redevelopment affecting punctuality,” she said.

Thameslink tunnels 25 Jan 2015 no1

The flooding caused by a burst water main between Farringdon and St Pancras damaged at least 25 trains in the Thameslink fleet. The disruption started when a burst water main near Farringdon flooded the railway tunnels between Farringdon and St Pancras on Friday 30 January. Thames Water attempted to fix the main, but the leak continued to flood the tunnels that weekend. 

Over 1,000 trains were cancelled with a further 133 hours of combined delays to those trains that managed to run. 

The highest ratings for overall satisfaction were achieved by First Hull Trains (96%), Heathrow Express (94%), East Coast (94%), Grand Central (94%) and Merseyrail (91%). 

Will Dunnett, managing director of open access operator First Hull Trains, said: “The results show that we are continuing to invest in all the right areas for passenger satisfaction. We are consistently delivering a first-rate service with an excellent team of people who genuinely care about the region and the customers who travel with us. 

“We’ve invested over £5m in our fleet in the past few years to provide additional seats, and improved environments within our trains. The professionalism and friendliness of our staff is also delighting passengers as we continue to invest heavily in training and customer service excellence.” 

The result for East Coast is also particularly good, as the top spots are usually clinched by open access operators. 

Main fieldwork for the survey was between 18 January and 29 March. Virgin Trains East Coast took over from Directly Operated Railways on 1 March, but fieldwork for the operator was only conducted up to 28 February 2015. 

Virgin Trains East Coast managing director David Horne said: "This is a great result and reflects the hard work of all the staff who now work for Virgin Trains East Coast.

"We have big plans to improve services a lot further. We have already cut the time taken to respond to customer complaints by half from ten to five days. We have also cut the price of our Standard Anytime tickets by 10%." 

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Lutz   27/06/2015 at 11:26

Not surprised that East Coast comes out so well; received favourable treatment from NR once it came under state control, and I have not doubt that there was a bias in the responses from those supporting re-nationalisation.

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