How satisfied are we with rail services?

By | Category: Travel news

According to the independent transport watchdog, Transport Focus, the satsifactions levels we have with rail are at a ten year low.

The mainstream media latched onto this and people followed filling newspaper comment sites with stories about how they never use trains or will never use them again because of punctuality, overcrowding and service. Hardly anyone had a good thing to say about the railways. Forget the industry itself for a moment which pointed out the difficulties that they face.

The people who did have a good thing to say were the passengers.

Yes, that surprising fact seems to have been overlooked by the media reports.

Transport Focus says that 71% of responders were satisfied with levels of punctuality and reliability. Indeed between the worst and the best rail companies, the range was between 54% and 96%. Even taking the very worst company, more than half of its passengers were satisfied.

Doesn’t this seem to conflict with the media which often seems to portray widespread discontent with the services we receive?

Admittedly overall levels of satisfaction are declining compared to the same period last year but is this not understandable given the conditions that passengers have had to face on Northern Rail, ScotRail and in the south east of England. Take into account the debacle on the east coast main line which saw a new government controlled “company” take over and you can see why satisfaction levels dropped.

If there is so much dissatisfaction why are the majority of rail passengers saying that they are satisfied? There are two potential reasons. The first is that the media only likes to point out negatives or is pandering to preconceptions that “everyone” thinks that train services aren’t good or the survey isn’t properly measuring people’s concern.

On a minor note, for day-trippers and holidaymakers, the survey isn’t that helpful. The Autumn survey is taken in November not a great time for holidaymakers. Even then there will be day-trippers and the “purpose of journey” question is one of the few guides to how holidaymakers and day-trippers feel.

 The number ticking “leisure” (couldn’t this be widened to add “going on holiday”, “weekend break or short break” and “day trip” so that we can judge what this important tourist market thinks?) isn’t listed in the report so it is hard to see how robust the answers are but given how important rail traveller is to the tourist it would be useful in future surveys if more information could be captured to help destinations market their areas.

96% or passengers travelling on the Heathrow Express were satisfied according to the survey. It was the top performing rail company.
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