Passenger satisfaction 'steady'

Updated: 

PA

Commuters on busy southern England rail routes are the unhappiest with the quality and cost of their journeys, according to a survey of 27,000 train customers.

Only 30% of travellers with the Southeastern train company considered the price of their ticket was good or satisfactory, according to the survey by watchdog body Passenger Focus.

Among passengers on Southeastern's Kent to London Metro services, the value-for-money figure was just 29% - the lowest of any route in the survey, which involved 27,000 passengers.

Overall, 45% of Southeastern's passengers considered their ticket either poor or unsatisfactory in terms of value for money - the highest dissatisfaction level among the UK train companies.

Customers on the Yorkshire-to-London train company Grand Central rated their ticket the best value in the survey, with 78% regarding it as satisfactory or good and only 11% rating it poor or unsatisfactory.

Other low marks for the value for money of tickets were scored by Abellio Greater Anglia where only 35% reckoned their ticket offered good or satisfactory value for money, South West Trains (37% good or satisfactory), First Capital Connect (38%) and Southern (39%).

Across all train companies, the national figure for those reckoning their ticket offered good or satisfactory value for money was 45%, which was an improvement on the 42% figure from a similar survey this time last year.

Passenger Focus said the rise was likely to be a reflection on the decision to cap annual season ticket rises at the level of inflation.

Based on passengers' last journey, the overall satisfaction level in the latest survey was 82% - the same as a year ago.

Southeastern had the lowest satisfaction level in the latest survey - at 72% - with First Hull Trains having the highest figure - 96%.

By individual route, the lowest customer satisfaction figure - of 69% - was for Southeastern's mainline services, while First Capital Connect's Thameslink Loop services only scored 70%.

In the category of crowding, only 56% of Southeastern's passengers gave a satisfied-or-good rating on there being sufficient room to sit or stand. This was the lowest figure and compared with the highest - Grand Central's 93%.

Satisfaction with punctuality and reliability remained similar to 2013 at 77%.

Southeastern said today that the survey had taken place at a time when its services were hit by bad weather.

The company's managing director Charles Horton said: "We're not surprised that our customers have responded to the survey in this way as we too were frustrated by the problems that hampered services over the winter."

East Coast, which has been run in the public sector since 2009, had an overall customer satisfaction level of 91% - one of the best nationally.

Abellio Greater Anglia significantly improved its overall customer satisfaction figure compared with last year.

Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: "It is good news that overall satisfaction with Britain's railways remains steady.

"Congratulations to Abellio Greater Anglia and East Coast for significant improvements. Some other operators have to work hard to recover passenger confidence after difficult periods."

He went on: "Getting trains on time is the key factor underpinning passenger satisfaction, while how delays are dealt with is the key factor behind scores for passengers' dissatisfaction.

"Better communications during weather-related disruptions may have ensured passengers' satisfaction in dealing with delays has held up with some train companies."

Michael Roberts, director general of industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: "Passengers are at the heart of what we do and the rail industry knows it must keep on getting better, driving up the quality of services to respond to customers' needs.

"While overall satisfaction remains at near record levels and scores are higher in a number of the survey's categories, we are working hard to improve services and make every pound that passengers spend go further."

Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, said: "This is another vote of confidence in our only public-run rail franchise (East Coast).

"It would be sheer folly now for the Tories to press ahead with their dogmatic plans to sell it back to a private franchise operator in November."

Office of Rail Regulation chairman Anna Walker said: "This survey is an excellent barometer of what matters to those at the heart of the railways - its passengers.

"Overall national satisfaction remains positive, however, there is too great a variance (72%-96%) in satisfaction with individual train companies, with passengers experiencing inconsistent levels of service across the country."

She went on: "The results reinforce our decision to bring in tough new performance targets for the railways to reduce the disparity in punctuality between different routes and train services.

"We want to see Network Rail and the train companies work together to perform equally well across the network so that all passengers can enjoy a good service."

Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: "While satisfaction remains high, passengers are demanding more trains, better connections and better customer service.

"Over the next five years, we are spending more than £38 billion to maintain and improve the railways to meet these challenges, but train operators need to recognise that, while they have done good things, they need to do more."

He went on: "Rail fares are helping to fund the biggest programme of rail modernisation since the Victorian age.

"We recognise that passengers have concerns about the cost of train travel and that is why we have reduced the average regulated fare rise to RPI (inflation) plus 0% this year, which has provided relief for families and hardworking people."

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