Rail improvements paying off with higher satisfaction scores

Key improvements made by the rail industry in recent years are reflected in scores from the most recent survey of 28,000 passengers published today by the independent watchdog Transport Focus.

Out of the 41 aspects of their journey about which people were questioned, scores improved in 22 areas year-on-year, with no categories seeing a decline.

The higher scores reflect key improvements made by the industry in recent years including:

  • New carriages - overall satisfaction with the train is up 2% points, onboard internet reliability up 7% points, availability of power sockets up 5% points, toilet facilities up 4% points. This follows the introduction of 1,500 new carriages and scores more refurbished carriages since 2016, with a further 5,500 new carriages to come by the early 2020s
  • Better stations - overall satisfaction with the station is up 1% point, car parking facilities 2% points, availability of seating 2% points and availability of WiFi is up 4% points. This follows £54m of improvements to 180 stations over the last two years, with 73 more stations earmarked for improvement to make them more accessible over the next five years
  • More services - overall satisfaction with the frequency of trains is up 2% points to 76%, with the industry having added over 4,000 extra services per week since May 2018. The industry is committed to adding 6,400 extra services to the weekly timetable by the early 2020s.
  • Better punctuality – overall satisfaction with punctuality and reliability increased by 5% points to 77%. While further improvement in parts of the country is needed, this reflects the completion of key projects to boost capacity and reliability and the introduction of better timetables

On Southern a completely re-written timetable and improvements at London Bridge station have contributed to a 12% point increase in satisfaction, the highest score in seven years.

While passenger satisfaction with value for money has improved to 2% points and more people are satisfied than dissatisfied, scores remain relatively low at 47% points.

Earlier this year, the rail industry published proposals to government to update regulations which underpin the fares system and date back to the 1990s. These proposals would make ticket buying easier and enable the roll out of ‘tap-in, tap-out’ pay as you go across the country and potential savings for commuters working flexibly and travelling off-peak, with a better range of walk-up fares for long-distance journeys.

Responding to the survey, Jacqueline Starr, Chief Operating Officer at the Rail Delivery Group, said:

“Last year was a difficult one for our passengers and while further improvements are needed, long-term investment by rail companies in new carriages, extra services and revamped stations is starting to be reflected in higher satisfaction scores.

“Relatively low value for money scores reflect people’s continuing frustration with the outdated regulations that underpin the fares system, leading to a rigid, old-fashioned range of prices. We want to see government adopt in full train companies’ proposals for a radically simplified system that could give millions of people a better deal while making it far easier to get the right fare.”

Notes to Editors

  • The Transport Focus survey questioned over 28,000 passengers about their most recent journey, providing a highly statistically robust assessment of people’s views about their train travel.
  • While the survey is undertaken twice-yearly, as some station and train factors have a seasonal component to the result, the main comparison used by Transport Focus is year-on-year.
  • The biggest ever rail fares consultation, carried out last year, found that eight out of 10 want the system overhauled; nine out of 10 want consideration of smart or electronic tickets, with the potential for price capping; and, eight out of 10 want consideration of fares based on encouraging travel to fill up empty seats.
  • The ‘Easier Fares for All’ proposals, published this February, explain how updates to regulation would enable the transparent, simpler to understand fares system people want, backed up for the first time by an industry ‘best fare guarantee’.
  • Reform would support: ‘tap-in, tap-out’ pay as you go being rolled out across the country; enable greater local control over fares in devolved areas; and better integration of rail fares with those for other modes of transport.
  • With a new system, commuters working flexibly and travelling in off-peak hours could see savings while overcrowding could be reduced by up to a third on some of the busiest long-distance services.
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