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Passengers’ trust in rail is lowest for a decade

SATISFACTION with rail services has fallen to a 10-year low. In the latest survey from Transport Focus the average score was 79 per cent, the lowest level since 2008.

Transport Focus’ National Rail Passenger Survey sought responses from more than 25,000 passengers and identified the main problems as worsening punctuality, the ‘timetable chaos’ last summer, and what TF described as ‘lamentable’ strikes.

Chief executive Anthony Smith said: ‘Government and the industry must continue to focus on performance. In the longer term the Government’s Rail Review must bring about fundamental change.

‘Passenger irritation at poor performance erodes their most basic trust in the industry. Passenger frustration at continual fare increases saps confidence in the system to reform itself. Passenger anger during the summer timetable crisis was palpable. A better value for money and more reliable railway must arrive soon.’

Just two out of 25 train operators ‘significantly improved’, while seven went the other way.

On the bright side, with rising satisfaction scores, were Chiltern Railways and Heathrow Express – neither of which had been affected by timetable problems or disruption related to industrial action.

Seven operators declined ‘significantly’. Great Northern, Northern, TransPennine Express, Greater Anglia, Thameslink, ScotRail and London North Eastern Railway all pleased their passengers less than before.

Northern, TransPennine Express and Govia Thameslink (which includes Great Northern and Thameslink) all experienced major problems after the flawed May timetable changes last year, while Northern has been involved in a long-running dispute with the RMT over on-train staffing, which has led to more than 40 strikes so far. ScotRail has been experiencing rolling stock shortages, mainly caused by the late delivery of new or refurbished trains.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the number of passengers who felt they had received value for money rose slightly by an average of two percentage points, compared with the spring scores, but the results varied widely, depending on the reason for the journey. Leisure travellers were happiest, at 64 per cent. Business came next, at 47 per cent, but almost seven out of ten commuters were unhappy, with only 31 per cent saying they were contented with the cost.

Staff are still in the firing line, however. The number of passengers who said they were happy with the helpfulness and attitude of staff on the train fell by another 2 percent, making a total fall of 4 per cent since autumn 2017.

The Rail Delivery Group admitted that the industry was not doing well.

RDG customer experience managing director Jacqueline Starr said: ‘Punctuality is the bedrock of satisfaction for our customers and at the moment in too many places, we are not getting it right. Working together, we are investing billions of pounds in a long-term plan to rebuild key parts of the network to improve punctuality while putting thousands of new and refurbished carriages on track to make journeys more comfortable.

‘In parallel we are pushing for more fundamental reform to fix the railway for the future, including developing proposals for regulatory change to make the fares system easier.’

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