Long-haul rail satisfcation

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

The latest survey of rail passenger satisfaction shows that 87% of long-haul passengers are satisfied, some four percentage points more than the average for all rail journeys.

image of Virgin West Coast trains
Virgin Trains performed well on the long-haul routes…

Each six months, Transport Focus, polls about 28,000 rail travellers with regard to satisfaction. Compared to last year’s figures there is an improvement but bear in mind that the previous two sets of figures were at a time when there were strikes and reliability problems on the rail network. Given that in the early months of the year there was little disruption it is only natural that figures would improve.

Long haul rail traffic is often made up of day-trippers, (occasionally) those taking weekend breaks and holidaymakers going away for a week or more. They tend to travel less frequently than other people so they don’t have many journeys to measure whether the one they were on was better or worse. That means that they tend to give higher levels of satisfaction that commuters would.

The 87% figure is not that impressive then given that Heathrow Express achieved a satisfaction level of 95% and Virgin Trains reached 91%. It is also the same level as reached in Spring 2018 so there has been no improvement.


Could it be overcrowding, lack of luggage space, train punctuality or something else? We don’t know.

In the mainstream media, Southern Trains and GWR were mentioned because they saw the greatest growth in satisfaction levels. But these should be treated with some caution. Firstly, Southern was recovering from a bad period of industrial relations and thus less disruption would be bound to see an improvement in satisfaction levels and secondly, GWR began extensively operating new trains.

…whilst Heathrow Express had the highest satisfaction levels

Whenever there is something new be it an airline terminal, an improvement in train rolling stock or even a new plane, satisfaction levels rise as they did when terminal five at Heathrow opened, when Stansted first opened and when the new, wider trains began on London Overground. The autumn figures about GWR will provide a better guide to satisfaction level improvement with GWR.

About 53% of passengers thought that their ticket prices were not good value for money. They aren’t alone. Recently there was a Transport for Wales story that their executives were flying from South to North Wales because it was cheaper. That it was quicker must have played a part but it is more difficult to work on a short flight than it is on a train. If the most knowledgeable about rail take a plane what does that tell us lesser mortals?

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