Rail passengers 'happier with train firms'

People waiting for trains on a platformImage source, PA

More rail passengers across Britain are satisfied with their train services than last year, according to the industry's independent watchdog.

Transport Focus said 83% of 27,000 people surveyed were satisfied with services, up by 3% on last year.

Toilet provision on long journeys, seating in stations, and punctuality were rated better than a year earlier.

Hull Trains and the Heathrow Express scored joint first in the National Rail Passenger Survey - on 97%.

Southern Rail, run by Govia Thameslink, had the worst customer satisfaction with 72%, but that is a 3% increase on 2016. The areas in which it scored higher marks for satisfaction were availability of seating, ticket buying facilities, and the choice of refreshments.

But Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: "These green shoots are fragile and need nurturing.

"This recovery will be under pressure from upgrade works, industrial relationship problems and rising passenger numbers.

"So the industry needs to keep a relentless, ongoing focus on performance and reliability."

Last year, an industrial dispute between unions and Southern over the company's plan to change the role of guards on driver-only trains resulted in the most extensive industrial action in the rail industry for 23 years, with 58,983 Southern services were affected.

Why are more commuters satisfied?

By Richard Westcott, transport correspondent

Image source, PA

With the news full of strikes and delays, why are passengers becoming happier with their trains?

The most likely answer is a slow rise in punctuality across many services, apart from the biggest franchise which includes Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern.

You may not have felt it on your packed morning commute, but after struggling with ever-later trains for several years, punctuality levels having been rising a little for many people - from a pretty low point, mind you.

And being on time is the number one priority for most travellers whether it's trains, planes or automobiles.

Despite terrible reliability, even Southern's satisfaction levels are recovering, probably because the strikes are having less impact since the drivers stopped their walkouts - although that may change shortly.

Thameslink, Great Northern, Great Western Railway and Southeastern were also among the low-scoring firm for satisfaction ratings in the survey - although Southeastern's score was up 10% on a year ago.

Mr Smith added that customer satisfaction in London and south-east England had increased from 79% to 82%. He said: "The figures for Southern in particular show a significant recovery in passengers' experience with a number of factors including the helpfulness and availability of on board staff and also of staff at the station."