Many passengers do not trust their train company to provide a good day-to-day service nor do they trust them to be truthful, fair or communicate well, the survey from rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus found.
London and south east England train companies inspired the least trust, and among the operators working in the region, Northern Rail, which this week faced criticism for introducing plans to restrict the use of some off-peak tickets, fared worst.
Researchers conducted 4,000 online interviews with rail travellers, and held ten focus groups, including one in Doncaster. They looked at how passengers trusted their service, their relationship with the train company and its judgement.
The majority of the operators in the region - including Northern Rail, East Coast Mainline, First Transpenine, and First Hull Trains - scored negatively for ‘Trust in Service,’ which involved the day-to-day running of the service including punctuality, reliability, value for money, and helpfulness of staff, with Northern Rail bottom of the Yorkshire operators. It also came out bottom of the region’s operators for ‘Trust in Relationship’, which measured how truthful and honest the operator was and how it treated customers.
Grand Central, which operates routes from London to Yorkshire stations including York, Doncaster, Wakefield and Bradford, had the most positive remarks.
When it came to trusting a company’s judgment, with categories including having high principles and doing the right thing, only one company nationally - Southeastern - fell into negative territory, with Grand Central third from the top, and First Transpenine and First Hull ranking around the middle. Northern again ranked lowest of the Yorkshire operators.
Passenger Focus’s chief executive Anthony Smith said: “There is much that train companies - and governments - can do to improve trust. It is important for train companies to get the basic service right ahead of everything else. Then building on closer relationships with their passengers is important. One way is through high quality communication. Passengers should feel that train companies are ‘on their side.’”
Michael Roberts, director general of rail industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said the survey gave the industry a “clear indication” of where it could do better.
“Passengers are at the heart of what we do and we know that we must keep improving, driving up the quality of services to respond to their needs,” he said.
“We will continue efforts to improve, particularly in communicating with and providing information to passengers.”
Northern Rail came under fire this week after it announced that from Monday September 8, off-peak tickets will no longer be valid for weekday evening rush-hour journeys on local services in West Yorkshire. Mick Cash, acting general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said the step was a “savage kick in the teeth” for the travelling public.
Commenting on the survey, Alex Hynes, Northern Rail’s managing director said: “Building a level of trust with our customers is very important to us.
“With a network as large and varied as ours, we work hard to get the basics right but building relationships can be a challenge. We are committed to making improvements and this survey gives us a clear indication of where we can do better.”