The new annual passenger survey by watchdog Transport Focus reveals the frustrations faced by passengers, especially commuters, rather than a system in good health. The National Rail Passenger Survey of 28,000 passengers found a slight increase in overall passenger satisfaction, yet key problems facing many passengers, problems Transport Minister Claire Perry has not acknowledged.
Delving a little into the survey findings reveals that many of the issues our supporters regularly highlight are among the most prominent. Action for Rail unions have drawn attention to the fall in satisfaction levels with regard to passengers not having enough room to sit or stand, inadequate toilet and luggage facilities, as well as a fall in the punctuality and reliability of many services:
- 15 of the 26 train operators saw passenger satisfaction with enough room to sit or stand fall when compared with last year.
- 16 of the 26 train operators saw passenger satisfaction with luggage facilities fall when compared with last year.
- 15 of the 26 train operators saw passenger satisfaction with toilet facilities fall.
- 9 of the 26 train operators saw passenger satisfaction with punctuality fall when compared with last year.
The survey finds that commuters have much lower overall satisfaction (76 per cent) than business and leisure passengers (85 and 90 per cent), while a breakdown of passenger satisfaction with regard to particular areas shows much more dissatisfaction, more in-chime with the overcrowded, expensive and understaffed services many passengers are familiar with.
When considering value for money, the survey findings are unsurprising, with a desultory 48 per cent of passengers satisfied with the value for money of their services, the figure dropping to 34 per cent of commuters and 47 per cent of business passengers.
There is also some marked variation between satisfaction levels by train operator, with many of the services commuters rely on reporting the lowest satisfaction rates. Thameslink and Southern appear bottom of the list, with 73 and 78 per cent satisfaction levels, respectively, and much lower rates with regard to punctuality, value for money, sitting/standing room, toilet and luggage facilities.
A recent poll for Action for Rail of 1,719 UK adults by YouGov in December 2015 found that:
- 61 per cent thought that train services in the UK were bad value for money.
- Only 54 per cent thought that train services in the UK were punctual.
- 62 per cent thought that fares would be cheaper if train companies weren’t trying to make a profit.
- 62 per cent support bringing train companies back into public ownership.
National polling has regularly revealed the extent of dissatisfaction with the current railway system, especially with regard to value for money, and support for public ownership as an alternative. This is hardly surprising, as passengers in the UK, many of whom took part in our recent day of action, spend up to six times as much of their salary on rail fares than passengers using publicly owned railways in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.