Passenger satisfaction with train company performance has increased over the last year, but firms under the franchise that includes Southern continue to trail behind.
Transport Focus’s latest National Rail Passenger Survey of more than 27,000 passengers showed that overall satisfaction increased by 3% to 83% since last spring.
The watchdog said a period of more stable performance has led to improvements in passengers’ experience. No train operating company’s (TOC) overall satisfaction figures declined.
Liverpool Street station
However, satisfaction by TOC varied significantly. The lowest ratings were given to Southern (72%), Thameslink (75%) and Great Northern (79%) – all part of the franchise run by GTR. Southeastern, which was the subject of a row over devolution between London mayor Sadiq Khan and transport secretary Chris Grayling, scored only 81%, as did Great Western Railway.
The highest ratings for overall satisfaction were achieved by Hull Trains and Heathrow Express (both 97%), Grand Central and Merseyrail (94%), and Chiltern Railways and Virgin Trains (both 92%).
Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: ‘Passengers using services in London and the South East have seen an improvement with an increase in overall satisfaction from 79% last year to 82% this year. The figures for Southern in particular show a significant recovery in passengers’ experience with a number of factors including the helpfulness and availability of on board staff and also of staff at the station. Southeastern also saw their overall satisfaction scores increase by 10%.
‘Having said that, there is some way to go to reach a more acceptable position. Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Southeastern have the lowest scores. These green shoots are fragile and need nurturing. This recovery will be under pressure from upgrade works, industrial relationship problems and rising passenger numbers.’
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents TOCs and Network Rail, said the overall satisfaction score was the highest since autumn 2012 and the joint highest ever for the spring version of the survey.
The RDG’s managing director of customer experience, Jacqueline Starr, said: ‘There is more to do which is why we are investing to improve and better connect communities across the country with major upgrades to the rail network, thousands of new carriages coming on track and 6,400 extra services a week by 2021.
‘We will also continue to work hard to provide better information to our customers, simpler fares and a more accessible railway for all.’