Rail journey satisfaction dips - Passenger Focus survey

Train pulling into station Image copyright Getty Images

Rail passengers on Southeastern, Govia Thameslink and Southern were the least satisfied last year, a survey suggests.

The poll of 27,000 people last autumn by the watchdog Passenger Focus looked at topics ranging from reliability to staff attitudes and value for money.

It recorded that 81% of people said they were happy with railways in Great Britain, compared to 83% in 2013.

Rail operators say satisfaction levels had been improving until recently and promised to act to see them rise again.

The survey was conducted between September and November and so does not include the Christmas period, when trains into London King's Cross were seriously disrupted.

Satisfaction levels for train companies varied between 74% and 94%, with the highest-scoring operators being Heathrow Express and Grand Central on 94% and Chiltern 93%.

Southeastern's satisfaction score fell 11% to 74%, while Govia Thameslink, which took over the former First Capital Connect route, was on 77%, a 2% drop. Satisfaction with Southern was also 77% but this represented a 1% improvement on 2013.

At 86%, the satisfaction levels of passengers using long-distance train services were higher than the overall level, although this was also down by 2% compared with autumn 2013. When only regional train companies were taken into account, the overall satisfaction level was unchanged at 84%.

Passenger Focus said the overall drop in satisfaction was "significantly down". Overall satisfaction levels in the 2012 survey were 85%, and they were 84% in the previous two years.


By Richard Westcott, transport correspondent

Image copyright Reuters

A 2% drop in satisfaction might not seem like much but this survey must act as a warning for the train companies, Network Rail and the government.

Ministers keep putting fares up so that they can invest billions of pounds into the network, building new stations and electrifying lines.

But this drop has been going on for a couple of years, and it suggests passengers feel that all that extra cash isn't adding up to a better service.

Drill down and you see that people are less happy with just about everything, from punctuality and luggage room to the attitude of staff and the quality of the information they get on a journey, especially when there are problems.

Some of these problems can no doubt be blamed on the stresses and strains of running a progressively busy network, that was essentially built by the Victorians. But how hard can it be to tell passengers what's wrong when a train stops, and to give them some idea how long they are going to be stuck.

Read more from Richard @BBCwestcott

The number of passengers who rated their trains as punctual and reliable fell by 2%, to 77%, and fewer than half believed fares offered value for money. Areas where passenger satisfaction improved were in the shops, eating and drinking facilities and other services at stations.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, said: "Rail passengers' satisfaction is driven by getting trains on time. Many are being let down - fare increases, billions in government investment and promises of improvement don't seem to be delivering change on the ground.

"Passengers do not care who is to blame for things going wrong and for some of them the timetable is a work of fiction. If it really is the case that better day-to-day performance can't be achieved, then an honest, open debate is now needed so that passengers might be able to trust the promises made by the industry again."

Rail passenger satisfaction


satisfied with journey


drop on previous year

  • 94% highest satisfaction for Heathrow Express and Grand Central

  • 74% lowest score for Southeastern

  • 77% said their trains were punctual/reliable (down 2%)


Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail operators and Network Rail, said the results "reinforced" the companies' determination to see passenger satisfaction levels rise again.

"To improve, we are working closer together as an industry to deliver better reliability so that more people can complete their journeys on time and improve information to passengers, particularly during disruption."

'Angry and frustrated'

David Statham, managing director for Southeastern, said the survey results were disappointing.

He said: "We're committed to improving performance through a robust new timetable, which has seen punctuality improve over the last two to three weeks; and a programme of investment in our trains. We're also working together with Network Rail to identify the areas for their multi-million pound investment scheme to target to deliver the greatest benefit to passengers."

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: "We are investing record amounts of money in our railways to improve journeys for passengers. But this welcome long-term investment has to be made in a way that does not mean unacceptable delays for passengers travelling today.

"These statistics show that Network Rail and many train operators have to work together to improve reliability and communications around delays."

Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said the survey showed passengers were being "let down and ripped off" under the coalition government.

He said: "Labour will act on fares, plus deliver a better deal for passengers and taxpayers by making big changes to the railways, including giving passengers a real voice for the first time," he said.

Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said commuters were "paying record high fares for a worsening service", while the Rail Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said the survey was "more evidence that two decades of privatisation, fragmentation and under-investment on Britain's railways have left passengers angry and frustrated".

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