Special Report: Passengers find cold comfort amid fares rises and late trains

The Yorkshire Post survey of passenger satisfaction at the region's stations comes in the wake of another large rise in season ticket prices and a big fall-off in train punctuality.

Season ticket prices went up last week by 7.1 per cent from 784 to 840 on the key West Yorkshire commuter routes of Leeds to Wakefield and Leeds to Bradford.

A season ticket between Leeds and Huddersfield now costs 1,124 – a 6.8 per cent rise from 1,052 – and a day return from Leeds to London has risen around 5.00 to almost 89.

The increases come as the latest National Passenger Survey shows that just 48 per cent of rail users feel they are getting value for money on tickets.

The Campaign for Better Transport launched a drive on Tuesday calling for cheaper, simpler and fairer tickets, which has been backed by Yorkshire actor Michael Palin.

The group has forecast a Leeds to London return will cost 111 by 2015, and a Leeds to Sheffield return will increase to more than 2,500 in four years' time.

The vice-chairman of the Bradford Rail Users Group, Clive Barton, said: "Fares are being put up to reduce demand and reduce congestion. It's like what they did in the 1950s, when people started using buses and second-hand cars.

"The price will make people think, but I would never drive from Leeds to Bradford. There's lots of trains and using a car doesn't make sense – even without the parking problems."

Punctuality fell sharply by around 15 percentage points last month on the same period in 2009 at First TransPennine Express, CrossCountry and East Coast, which all provide Yorkshire services.

Northern Rail and East Midlands Trains's punctuality fell by about nine percentage points, as all operators battled through the severe winter snow that brought much of the region to a halt.

Latest quarterly figures for 2010-11 show "on-time" trains dropped to 87.5 per cent at East Coast and 90.0 per cent at CrossCountry and remained at 93.6 per cent on Northern Rail.

However, quarterly punctuality improved on First TransPennine Express and East Midlands Trains services to 94.3 per cent at both and rose by almost a third at Hull Trains to 87.7 per cent.

But passengers who spoke to the Yorkshire Post were generally less concerned about on-time trains and more worried about fare increases and the lack of warm waiting areas.

Some Sheffield passengers felt that although the station was spacious, its manager East Midlands Trains did not provide enough waiting areas or enough security presence.

An East Midlands Trains spokeswoman said it was currently refurbishing all the toilets and waiting facilities at Sheffield as part of a 10m programme of station improvements. She added that staff carried out regular safety checks and British Transport Police could provide support if needed.

Hull and East Riding Rail Users Association secretary Tony Ross, said Hull's transport interchange was "very much improved" after the train station's 18m makeover in 2007.

York passengers were concerned about a lack of waiting areas, but East Coast said it has two centrally heated waiting rooms and four smaller waiting rooms on the main platforms.

A spokesman said: "We appreciate the views of our station users and are constantly looking to improve services and facilities."

Passengers were mostly positive about Hull and York, and especially complimented their appearance – in contrast to what business leaders said about Leeds City Station in a survey last month, which showed 63 per cent of local firms believe it's not a good gateway into the city.

But station manager Network Rail said a survey conducted by research firm TNS at Leeds in 2009 suggested more than nine in ten passengers are satisfied with the station. It added that the lack of bins, which some passengers criticised, was a security measure.

Other Leeds passengers raised concerns about charging for the main concourse toilets, but Network Rail said there were free toilets on platforms and it had to cover maintenance costs.

A major issue for passengers at Bradford Interchange was the question of whether a railway link will ever be built to the city's other station – Bradford Forster Square – to improve train connections.

Northern Rail said that any such development would likely be beyond its existing franchise, which runs until September 2013.

Bradford Interchange users also told the Yorkshire Post the station looked "tired" and needed serious work. Northern Rail responded last night by revealing that station refurbishments, which include better waiting facilities and CCTV installation, should begin in May with the help of Network Rail.

A Government report in 2009 into the state of the nation's railways ordered station operators to improve standards and get overall passenger satisfaction levels up to 80 per cent, as measured by the National Passenger Survey.

But 14 months after the report was published, only 60.4 per cent of rail users say they are happy with facilities at stations managed by operators with Yorkshire sites.

Bradford interchange

Address: Bridge Street, Bradford, BD1 1TU

Ticket Office Mon-Sat: 0600-2015

Annual passenger usage: 2.2 million

Managed by Northern Rail

Four platforms

The Government said it will look at proposals to link Interchange – where 250,000 was spent in 2009 installing ticket barriers – with Forster Square, after tackling the deficit.

Passengers said the station needs upgrading and there are often queues for tickets. The one ticket machine was working and three of the seven booths were open when we visited.

Your view

Derek Allen, 56, Bradford "I'm going into Leeds for the day and the train is delayed. It doesn't make much difference to me today, but when there's delays and people are trying to get to work or get home it's more of a hassle. I always go to the ticket office here but at peak times there are queues."

Sana Khan, 18, Bradford: "It would be good if Interchange was linked up with Forster Square, because it's hard to get between the stations. You have to walk all the way through town – it's a bit silly. The station could so with some work and it's a bit small. I get trains to Leeds and they are always on time."

Scarlet Shakespeare, 20, Sowerby Bridge: "I've come from Halifax and been delayed by 20 minutes because there have been thefts on the rail line. The trains are always delayed because of it and I do the trip twice a day for work and university. When I started getting my train, a week pass was 52 but it's gone up this month to 67 – too much."

Hull

Address: Ferensway, Kingston-upon-Hull, HU1 3QX

Ticket Office Mon-Sat: 0545-2000

Annual passenger usage: 2.2 million

Managed by First TransPennine Express

Six platforms

Hull Paragon Interchange was formerly opened by the Queen in 2009 and it has been through a redevelopment that saw its Victorian faade preserved and a glass canopy added.

Passengers said the station is a good gateway to the city but ticket costs are too high. All three ticket machines were working and three of six booths were open when we visited.

Your view

Blaise Simpkin, 16, Bempton : "I travel on the train five times a week and get a weekly pass that costs me 44. I don't think it is value for money as there are too many late trains. I get the 7:20 into Hull and just before Christmas it was pretty bad. Even when the weather was fine there were a lot of late trains."

Ronny Brown, 39, Great Yarmouth: "I drove up here to see my girlfriend but my car broke down so I've had to get a train back. I bought my ticket today and it's 80 one way – it's a rip-off but I've got no other option. There was a queue for the ticket office but Hull station is one of the better ones in the country."

Megan Grady, 17, Hutton Cranswick: "Every day I travel into Hull on the 7:50 to go to college. The trains are always overcrowded and late – it's annoying. When you're paying as much money as I do they should be on time. I get a week pass and it's gone up by 2 after the rail fare increases, which is 100 over the year."

Leeds

Address: New Station Street, Leeds, LS1 4DY

Ticket Office Mon-Sat: 0000-2359

Annual passenger usage: 24.3 million

Managed by Network Rail

Seventeen platforms

A survey in December showed two in three firms said Leeds station is not a good gateway into the city, but plans for a new 14m southern pedestrian entrance were passed last March.

Problems identified by passengers include a lack of seating areas, bins or a smoking zone. All 16 ticket machines were working and seven of the 16 booths were open when we visited.

Your view

Katie Hall, 18, South Derbyshire : "They need bins, more seating areas and they shouldn't be charging to use the toilet – it's disgusting. It's like charging somebody to breathe. I pay nearly 40 for a return ticket from south Derbyshire – it's not like I'm coming from Scotland. So I'm learning to drive now."

James Rathbone, 23, Harrogate: "The service is pretty good and the trains are usually on time. It's efficient and it's effective, but I don't usually use public transport. There's definitely improvements that could be made to its look – there's always improvements – but it serves its purpose and it's OK."

Ann-Marie Sullivan, 23, Peterborough: "Sometimes when I'm coming up to a station and can't see the signs, I can't hear what the announcer is saying because the speakers don't work in all the cabins. The station needs a smoking shelter. Sometimes trains are overcrowded, so they should have an extra wagon."

Sheffield

Address: Sheaf Street, Sheffield, S1 2BP

Ticket Office Mon-Sat: 0500-2250

Annual passenger usage: 8.1 million

Managed by East Midlands Trains

Eight platforms

The Government said last April that ticket barriers will not be installed at Sheffield before a new footbridge is built, after residents said it would block a vital thoroughfare to the city.

Passengers said they feel the station has a lack of waiting areas and security presence. There were six ticket booths open out of 12 and six of the seven machines were working when we visited.

Steven Langton, 35, London "This station is like an airport – I like the big information board, but they should add a smoking area outside. I've not seen one police officer or security guard here though, which will make people feel less safe. If there was one little incident, there would be chaos."

Morag Anderson, 44, Exeter: "There could be more places for sitting down for people waiting. I've been stood here waiting for someone to come off the train and you've got to stand. I don't use the train much but I don't think it's too much for short journeys as long as you book in advance."

Michael Gray, 61, Spain: "The parking is an issue and if you don't know Sheffield it can be hard to find if you're dropping off people and it can be a bit of a nightmare. I think the trains are value for money – but are terrible compared to Spain, where they are on time and much cheaper."

Skipton

Address: Broughton Road, Skipton, BD23 1RT

Ticket Office Mon-Sat: 0550-1820

Annual passenger usage: 0.9 million

Managed by Northern Rail

Four platforms

The "Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales", opened in 1847, is a good starting point for day trippers on the Settle to Carlisle line, and it also has a single daily service to London.

Passengers said they are satisfied with the station but disappointed the caf closes early. There was one ticket booth open and the one machine was working when we visited.

Your view

Anna Young, 64, Silsden : "I'm getting the cross-Pennine route up to Dumfries to see family in Scotland. I've never had any difficulty at Skipton, particularly with my journeys up north. I like the station a lot – it's nice and a bit different. I have a senior railcard so price is not really an issue."

Kath Smith, 67, Temple Sowerby near Penrith: "I've come down from Langwathby (in Cumbria) to see a friend. The journey was very nice and everything's been on time. The only thing is I'm disappointed the caf shuts at two o'clock because for the 3:20 train home it would be nice to get a coffee."

John Puddephatt, 23, Leeds: "I think the station's quite nice actually, it does the job. It's a shame the toilets are out of order and that you have to get a key from the ticket office to use them, though."

York

Address: Station Road, York, YO24 1AB

Ticket Office Mon-Sat: 0530-2100 (Fri 2200 close; Sat 0545 open)

Annual passenger usage: 7.6 million

Managed by East Coast

Eleven platforms

Plans for ticket barriers at York station, which is in a city famous for its railway heritage, were scrapped in November 2009 after complaints that they would be unsightly.

Passengers were happy with the station, but raised concerns over the lack of warm waiting areas. All 10 ticket machines were working and all eight booths were open when we visited.

Your view

Bruce Barclay, 37, Sheffield : "The station is quite cold and there's nowhere to sit down just to keep warm, although there are a few little cafs. I think the train is quite reasonably priced in advance, but I'd question why it's a 6 per cent rise when VAT has only gone up 2.5 per cent."

Jeff Plowman, 60, Kirkhampton: "The station's appearance is pretty impressive, the facilities are good, there are plenty of cafs and restaurants and there is plenty of parking. I'd say York is probably the best of the main Yorkshire stations and long-distance trains still represent value for money."

Brenda Triffitt, 70, Holme on Spalding Moor: "I've just used the automatic ticket machine for the first time – and it worked the second time. The parking is brilliant here and it's always been good. But it's very cold and the waiting room isn't very big – on Christmas Eve I didn't manage to get a seat in there."