Stark divide revealed in levels of railway passenger satisfaction

Northern Rail has been voted one of Britian's least favourite rail firms
Northern Rail has been voted one of Britian's least favourite rail firms
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NORTHERN Rail scored one of the lowest customer satisfaction ratings in the country in a national survey which revealed stark regional differences for passengers.

Passenger Focus, which surveyed 30,590 rail travellers for its annual study, said the satisfaction scores for individual routes provided by different firms varied from 72 per cent to 95 per cent.

Nationally, the percentage of passengers satisfied with their journey overall remained the same, at 84 per cent. However, satisfaction with value for money fell from 49 per cent to 46 per cent.

National Express East Anglia had the lowest overall rating at 77 per cent, followed by First Capital Connect with 80 per cent and CrossCountry at 82 per cent. Northern Rail was one of four firms which scored 83 per cent.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, an independent rail watchdog, said: “The experience of passengers ranges from mediocre to good.

“This demonstrates that there is no such thing as the average passenger. Satisfaction with value for money has gone down, illustrating the impact that tough economic times, coupled with fare rises, are having.”

Grand Central, which operates routes between London King’s Cross and the north of England, had the highest rating, at 95 per cent. Other high scorers included Heathrow Express and Merseyrail – both at 93 per cent while London Overground and Heathrow Connect scored 92 per cent.

For individual routes, satisfaction with value for money varied from 27 per cent to 80 per cent, while passengers’ satisfaction on having room to stand or sit ranged from 53 per cent to 95 per cent.

Ian Bevan, Managing Director of Northern Rail, said: “We are happy the majority of our passengers are satisfied with our services and that our overall satisfaction figure has increased to 83 per cent.

“Our scores have improved in many categories However we appreciate there is still work to be done to improve in a number of areas such as the cleanliness, upkeep and maintenance of our trains, which is widely known as some of the oldest on the rail network. Overall, the statistics show that we are providing a better service for our customers and we are pleased with that.”

The company revealed last year that 50 more carriages are being put on some of the busiest routes providing more than one million extra seats a year.

The second-hand stock will see more capacity on trains serving Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.

The Passenger Focus survey also revealed there was a decline in satisfaction for passengers on long-distance journeys, from 87 per cent last year to 86 per cent.

Customer approval for value for money and reliability on long journeys also dropped, by 3 per cent. Regional train operators saw a rise in overall satisfaction, from 86 per cent to 87 per cent.

Two operating companies, South West Trains and Hull Trains, saw levels of satisfaction drop this year. Two significantly improved, First Capital Connect and London Overground, while 19 had no significant change.

South West Trains, which has seen passenger satisfaction drop from 87 per cent to 84 per cent in a year, announced a 10-point plan yesterday to improve punctuality on its services.

Anna Walker, chairwoman of the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), said: “Passenger Focus’s autumn National Passenger Survey shows that overall passenger satisfaction remains strong at 84 per cent, with research highlighting some welcome improvements in satisfaction with station and train facilities.

“However, passengers also highlight areas of real concern, and the rail industry must work harder, and more collaboratively, to give passengers the service that they deserve.

“The lowest score was for how well train companies dealt with delays – only 38 per cent passengers said that this was good or satisfactory.

“ORR is acutely aware of this, and is working intensively with the industry to ensure that substantial improvements in the provision of passenger information are made.”

tom.palmer@ypn.co.uk