Rail passenger satisfaction sinks to 10-year low as reports emerge of Northern sale

Passenger satisfaction with rail services has fallen to a 10-year low.Passenger satisfaction with rail services has fallen to a 10-year low.
Passenger satisfaction with rail services has fallen to a 10-year low.
Damning new figures from a national rail watchdog have revealed the extent to which passenger satisfaction in Yorkshire plummeted during the timetable fiasco which crippled services for much of last year.

Transport Focus published its annual passenger survey as a union claimed that the German owner of the region’s biggest operator was attempting to sell off the troubled franchise.

Northern Rail and TransPennine Express were among seven operators nationally to have seen their passenger approval ratings decline significantly during 2018. Across the country, the figures stood at a 10-year low.

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More than a quarter of passengers on Northern expressed overall dissatisfaction with their journeys – nine per cent more than the previous year – and only two commuters in 10 were content with the way it dealt with delays.

In some parts of Yorkshire, fewer than one train in three reached its destination on time in October and November, and average punctuality across the region was only 39.7 per cent.

The figures reveal that nearly half of passengers were dissatisfied with the usefulness of information about what was causing the delays.

The survey also found that third of Northern commuters were unhappy with the attitude and helpfulness of train staff – many of whom have been staging regular strikes for nearly two years, with another planned for the coming Saturday.

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TransPennine Express, which had enjoyed a higher satisfaction rating than Northern before new timetables last May threw its services into chaos, saw its figure fall by 12 per cent in six months.

On both networks, fewer than 30 per cent of commuters thought their tickets were worth the money.

In November it was reported that Deutsche Bahn, the German nationalised train operator which owns Northern’s parent, Arriva, was locked in crisis talks with officials at Chris Grayling’s Transport Department over the terms of the Northern franchise. Last week, it was suggested that Deutsche Bahn wanted to sell Arriva.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union, which has staged 46 one-day strikes in a dispute over the roles of train guards – whose jobs have been guaranteed for the next six years by the Government – said the “usual suspects” were “propping up these league tables”.

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“It is no wonder that Arriva are looking to offload the toxic Northern franchise in a fire sale to the highest bidder. The Arriva Rail North services are rotten at the best of times,” Mr Cash said.

Northern’s managing director, David Brown, blamed overrunning engineering works and the autumn weather for the results, which he called “disappointing but not surprising when we look at the challenges the rail industry, and in particular Northern, has faced in 2018”.

He added: “We are doing everything we can to find a resolution to the RMT dispute. A conductor will remain on Northern trains.”

The Government’s review of the rail industry, announced last autumn, must take more notice of passengers’ views, a consumer group said.

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“Passengers are suffering with stress, having issues with their employers and even moving homes due to appalling disruption on the railways,” said Alex Hayman, at Which?

“If the rail review is to have any hope of restoring faith in the system it must listen to passengers, who have too often been an afterthought.”

Kathryn O’Brien, at TransPennine Express said: “

“In December, we made some amendments to our timetable that have significantly enhanced the punctuality of our services.”